By JACOB NG'ETICH email@example.com and PAULINE KAIRU firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted Friday, January 27 2012 at 18:31
Posted Friday, January 27 2012 at 18:31
The Faculty of Law at the University of Nairobi has become a casualty of the reforms in government after senior lecturers quit in favour of plum jobs in commissions and the Judiciary. (READ: Jobs galore as State seeks office holders)
The dean at Parklands School of Law, Prof James Otieno-Odek, says the exodus has dealt a big blow to the field because there is a shortage of highly educated law professionals to replace the departing lecturers.
“The capacity was already lacking but the little we had has now been taken away,” Prof Odek told the Saturday Nation.
“A number of those who left had PhDs and others were professors yet very few people in the field have gone beyond the first degree,” he lamented.
The dean said the school lacked professors to supervise students pursuing doctorate (PhD) degrees.
“I am the only professor around yet I am the dean of the school so I can’t manage to be the same one supervising students,” he said.
Those who had left earlier to join commissions include former Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission chairman PLO Lumumba, Mrs Florence Simbiri Jaoko (former chairperson, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights), Dr Elizabeth Muli (Commission for Implementation of the Constitution vice-chair) and Mr Tom Ojienda of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission.
Ms Josephine Muritu, the assistant director in-charge of quality insurance, compliance and accreditation at Kenya School of Law, attributes the exodus to demand for high qualifications required for the plum jobs in the Judiciary and the commissions.
She says the shortage has been occasioned by the fact that the bulk of lawyers lack qualifications above a bachelors degree.
“What we are seeing is because we had not invested in an expanded manpower to cater for an expanded Constitution,” she says.
The Council of Legal Education, according to the assistant director, has for the last six months been involved in a fact-finding mission ahead of an accreditation programme of law faculties and the situation is not good.
“We insist that institutions must now start to think of their next plan of action regarding capacity building to recoup the losses,” says Ms Muritu.
But even as the situation changes from bad to worse, Ms Muritu says little is being done to counter the problem and some universities have been forced to import their teaching staff.
According to her, universities are not developing their teaching staff both externally and internally.
“There are no structures for mentorship in our universities and we are looking at putting a requirement that each university must allocate a percentage of their money into staff development and research,” she says.
Prof Odek, who puts the number of professors of law in the country at less than 10 and PhD holders at less than 25, says the situation mirrors the lack of commitment by the government to reward pursuance of higher education.
He says it is going to be an uphill task for the University of Nairobi to recover from the loss.
“We are working at filling the vacancies and we have hired about 15 lecturers with post-graduate qualifications but these have no capacity to supervise masters and PhD students.”
Some experts argue that the shortage of law lecturers stems from the fact that before the 2000, most lawyers did not further their studies as the culture of post-graduate degrees had not quite hit the law profession. Most lawyers also made good money from private legal practice.
Prof Moni Wekesa, the Dean of School of Law at Mt Kenya University, says law programmes especially at the masters and PhD levels in most of the schools of law are still in their nascent stages. She sees the exodus as a setback to the growth of the programmes.
Mr Henry Lugulu, Dean School of Law at Moi University which has also lost a few lecturers, is however optimistic that the lecturers who have opted for greener pastures will return to class.
“The good thing is that these commissions are only transitory. The commissioners will be back to class as soon as the tenures of the various commissions expire,” Mr Lugulu says.
He says the lecturers’ pay is not commensurate with the amount of investment and work put in developing a portfolio, for say a professor.According to Prof Wekesa, many law experts ditched teaching because of poor pay.
Lecturers spend so much time and resources studying to progress in their careers, he says, but they are rarely rewarded for their effort.
He makes reference to the members of the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution who recently demanded to be paid a minimum of Sh1 million per month.
Prof Wekesa says the government pays a university lecturer with a PhD qualification just below Sh100,000, while a lawyer with a bachelors degree earns more than Sh300,000 per month in most government parastatals.
He poses: “If one gets a job that pays Sh1 million in a month and is asked to choose between the new job and remaining in a classroom where will he go?”
Prof Odek agrees and insists that there is a need for the system to put in place a mechanism of rewarding law scholars.