|Former Education Minister Hon. William Ruto|
Question: What is your reaction on the former education minister William Ruto that only science courses should be funded by the government to realize vision 2030?
Prof. Ochieng’: Well, Ruto was just speaking his personal sentiments and not that of the government of Kenya. Hon. Ruto’s opinion wasn’t even that of the Ministry of Higher Education because the cabinet didn’t meet anywhere to pass the motion.
And for someone who doesn’t understand the history of education it is possible for him to make such remarks.
Q: Is Ruto justified in his opinion that government should only release grants for research in scientific fields?
A: The Government collects tax from parents with children in the Universities in both sciences and arts including professionals in those faculties, by giving grants to one faculty alone that will not represent the population who all pay taxes.
Q: What is your comment on the perception among college students that there is ready employment in sciences than arts courses?
A: That doesn’t hold water, unemployment cut across the entire faculties since there are many jobless scientists in the job market as well.
Q: Can science work alone in attaining vision 2030 and millennium Developments Goals (MDGs )in the country?
A: First, development can never be channeled in one direction. Physicists, atomic scientists will need social scientists like historians, lawyers and journalists in formulating policies since their innovations will have social implications that they must understand very well.
Secondly, and most importantly for the scientists to channel their input to better the society they will need social aspect to unwind and here is where musicians and thespians come in handy, so they will just have to work together.
Q: Comment on the notion that science is better that arts which has been brought by the debate.
A: That’s quite a broad question you ask, Arts started in earlier Greek and Roman civilization before science with fields like philosophy, politics, sociology and drama being studied then.
Arts was predominant from the 9th even to 11th century in Great Britain’s Sahara University and most western universities, it is only until industrial revolution begun in the eighteenth century that sciences emerged.
In additions, this misleading concept leads most colleges and universities which started on a strong science footing reversing to arts! Moi and JKUAT realized this. This view is held globally for even prestigious science institution like Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that has incorporated arts.
In Moi University it was noted that arts and social sciences were needed to make the students and even the lecturers cope effectively in their professional fields, that’s why in 1991 Prof. Serem and I as the first principal started Maseno University as an arts institution it later welcomed science courses.
Q: From your own perspective are arts and social sciences given the required attention in how they are taught?
A: None, first of all it must be noted that it is the faculty of education which is the biggest in all the institutions that teach it in Kenya. So big is it that it has triggered the acquisition of teaching colleges. And the number of students that are left to one lecturer per course is quite overwhelming more so the common courses. This has led to poor quality of education in our institutions of learning because less time is spent in tutoring the mass of students.
Excerpt from interview with Prof. William Ochieng’ of the History & Archeology Department, Maseno University
Co-interviewed with Moturi Enock