Economy Education

The untold suffering of Kenyan part-time university lecturers

image courtesy sciencemag.com

In 2016, Catherine was teaching as a part time lecturer in one of the public universities in the city. As an IT professional, he had been offered 3 units which he taught for 3 semesters before she stopped. Since that time, all his efforts to follow up on his payments have been fruitless. His journey to the university every short while ends up with nothing tangible with no staff in the finance department on when his dues will ever be paid or whether it will ever be paid at all. She narrates her story with sadness and pain, having spent her own resources to deliver for the university yet 5 years later, her payments.

The story of Catherine is a common story that any lecturer who has been engaged with part time lecturing will narrate to you. Steve was engaged for part time lecturing with a private university based in Thika in 2013 and 2014. In 2016, he quit and was lucky to be engaged on full-time basis in a university in Nairobi. When he went back to his previous university to inquire about his dues, he was informed that some of his payments had already been paid to somebody else and there was nothing the accounts would do. He was told to check whether the lecturer to whom the money had been paid for had units for the semester so that during payments, the money would be recovered for him. Unfortunately, the Said lecturer had left and was no longer involved with the university. For the remaining units, he was asked to wait for processing of the payments which were usually done in bulk. It was not until 2018 may that he found some money in his account with no specific details what units he was being paid for. On inquiring with the institution, he was told that the amount represented all that he was owed by the university and to them, he had already been fully paid. His biggest wonder was how the figure had been computed. He had 7 units that had not been paid, the total amount he found in his account was 74,380. It never made sense considering that each unit was paid at KSh. 1,500 per hour and each unit had 42 academic hours. With nobody to turn to for assistance, he gave up.

Stories of dissapointment, neglect and pain follow every part time lecturer in any institution. Notable universities in Kenya where part time lecturers are paid for on time include Chuka University, Kirinyaga University and Meru University. Other universities that make an effort to pay part time lecturers include St. Paul’s University, Strathmore University and Masinde Muliro University. Other universities in the country are a pain to work for. Worst and most notorious being Jomo Kenyatta University, Dean Kimathi University and karatina University, Egerton and moi Universities. Some of these universities will engage you for years, and kick you out when your accumulated debt becomes too much. In some universities, there are allegations that you have to bribe the accountant to get paid.

For starters, despite being the majority in every university, part time lecturers are considered to be an after thought: there are barely any plans to pay them in most university budgets otherwise every semester, money would trickle into the accounts of part time lecturers. What even hurts most is that in most if not all the universities, no student is allowed to sit for exams without clearing their fees, and the full time lecturers are dutifully paid on time.

But for long, our local universities became dens of corruption, theft and mismanagement of public resources. Worse still has been the appointment of Vice chancellors who have no business management experience but based sorely on academic credentials. This has resorted in Universities that simply exist by name, with no tangible enterprising activities that can generate income for the university. Even more, the very basic idea that universities should be centre’s of research long faded with most universities existing merely as elevated high-school whose pursose is to produce graduates. Their investment in research is questionable, and much of the funding is solely dependent on the government and fees paid by the students.

Competition from private universities has not made it any easy especially for public universities. With the growing number of private universities, some of which have risen to be more attractive to students and employers, public universities have been left with a huge burden of having to run without the previously depended on self-sponsored students who pay moderately higher fees for their studies. And with private universities investing more in research and adversisemeny, a number of public universities have been left to sit and watch as private universities steal the show.

These have also been accusations that university education is under funded not just in Kenya but also globally. In Kenya, the proposal to increase student fees from KSh 16,000 to KSh. 48,000 annually for government sponsored students has been highly criticized. Yet logically, this is long overdue. A fee of 16,000 for 2 semesters of 8 months means that a student pays 2000 shillings to study for each month. If a class has 50 students, it means a total of 100,000 fees paid by these students per month. The average number of units a student takes in a semester is 6, which means such a class needs six lecturers to teach. The average number of units a lecturer teaches in a semester is 3, which means that the class needs two lecturers. Now if a lecturer) not a professor or Dr) is paid an average of Ksh.150,000 per month, it means in four months, the cost of labor to teach those 50 students was KSh. 1.2 million compared to the total fees paid of Ksh. 100,000. How do universities fix such gaps with limited sources of income if not through fees?

There is therefore need to address the challenges of university education in Kenya, and the role of part time lecturers in the entire mix. It is sad that this group continues to be ignored, unrecognized by the government and all their efforts remain in appreciated by the commission for university education (CUE). It is heartbreaking that even if you were to dutifully work as a part time lecturer for 10 years, CUE would never recognize your efforts as experience.

The worst thing about part time lecturing is that nobody recognizes you, with most universities preferring not to give you a contract of engagement to avoid the legal burden that comes with it. Perhaps it time the government, ministry of education and the concerned stake holders look into this. Ensure part time lecturers are paid their dues. No person or institution has a right to withhold pay for a person whether they are employed permanently or on part time basis for years.

I have seen a lecturer kicked out of a house for lack of rent, and sometime others can’t even afford lunch or even fare to and from work as their families go without basic necessities. And in all this, he/she has to put a strong face, forget the suffering, stand before students and deliver quality content. Yet the same person is owed hundreds of thousands or even millions by some universities. Very vital to the university and the education system, but ignored by the same system that is supposed to take care of their interests.

More to follow