Phony Doctorates – Abuse of Honorary Awards

The ultimate abuse of honorary awards

Lately there have been interesting but shameful reports on the generous awards of doctorates by a university in the United States of America. This resulted in condemnation from local and international scholars. Unfortunately, this hoax has been targeting innocent (innocent?) who may not be aware of the rigour with which PhD is acquired.

University degrees are not bought, just as you cannot purchase someone’s sharp brains. Degree is earned through sheer hard work. Apparently, Kenyan’s desire for higher degrees has become common and unstoppable, with the culture of impunity which has affected the country. Everyone knows that to be called a doctor or a professor has its own procedure.

Here is what happens in all credible institutions of higher learning worldwide:

Registered universities in various countries award Bachelors and Masters Degrees, as well as doctorates depending on their mission.

To be registered to pursue PhD in a Kenyan university, one must have a first degree, a second degree or equivalent and must present a researchable proposal to a panel of scholars.

This is a straight forward method of attaining a PhD. Several years are spent on research presentations and publications. It can take anywhere from three to ten years if one does not fail midway.

Some people get fatigued and quit or their supervisors give up on them. Those who make it are awarded the degree in a formal congregation of the particular university. The award is given in public by the chancellor. Senates or equivalent bodies recommend such awards and not individuals.

What is an honorary degree? It is basically an award to appreciate the exemplary work that an individual has performed for the nation and globally. The recipient must have contributed to the advancement of learning, humanities, science or a major breakthrough unique to himself or herself.

On awarding such honours, it is the senate sub-committee which vets the recipient. No individual can walk to the graduation congregation and announce an award without thorough vetting and approved “citation” of the recipient.

Universities are gauged by the quality of graduates they produce and research conducted. They are also judged by the frequency and quality of honorary degrees they dish out at one congregation.

The academic world is mean and conservative. Scholars the world over protect their titles. Any abuse to these titles is to be abhorred.

Employing fresh graduates

Where do fresh graduates get the experience that most employers want?

A young lad completed his university education recently and was eager to get a job and start a new independent life. But alas!, every application he puts up for a job require him to have at least 5 years experience in the type of job he applied for.

It is clear that the business environment has become very competitive and many companies are probably losing the focus on employee training – especially for new graduates. You will notice that even chances for internship are very rare. For those who get the chance for internship, the attention given to the objective for their internship by their supervisors is relatively insufficient to have someone learn much. This is why companies are resorting to those employees that can hit the ground running.

However the above said is not a blanket situation, it does not mean that all hope is lost for the fresh graduates as there are companies that are not high profiled as those that many fresh graduates dream about, but that may be willing to provide temporary opportunities and at times at lower levels for the graduates. If yours is this kind of situation, the reward may not be commensurate with your expectation, and the temporary nature of the job may not provide you with the sense of security you envisage.

You are lucky that you have a temporary opportunity; this could be what is easily available for some fresh graduates. Like yourself, they are likely to emphasize on the temporary nature and the nominal reward level and fail to capitalize on the content of the responsibilities.

I am sure that what you do in your current position is what some permanent and pensionable person is doing in a blue chip multinational company. I imagine that with this mindset, you are likely to be declaring yourself as jobless to the society around you and applying for positions with the overtone of temporary employment. Perhaps in your CV, the responsibilities are barely more than three bullets of tasks described loosely in a layman language. Your attitude to this position may influence the extent to which you undersell yourself. A few years down the line, as few as three years, this if well articulated, may constitute very marketable profile.

Career / Education advice

I personally think that it is unfair that employers are asking for a number of years of experience which fresh graduates don’t have. This is associated with the realities of business environment. Fresh graduates need to adapt to this reality, and adopt means of overcoming the challenge. They could search for temporary employment opportunities that may be lower compared to target employment levels.

Where necessary, seek hands on opportunities that may require that you roll up your sleeves. Remember, the connotation of temporary refers to the type of contract and may not undermine the scope of your duties. The alternative means is to adopt the post training internship opportunities in which you identify milestones that you can achieve and execute them as required.

School Performance

How best schools manage budgets worldwide

Do high education budgets, small class sizes or even handsome salaries guarantee the best results in schools? No, not according to a major international study on the world’s best.

The study dispels many popular notions about what ails education systems. It suggests that recruiting only the top students to become teachers is the best way to change the downward spiral of any education system.

Recent reports in Kenya have shown that one out of ten class eight pupils cannot solve a standard two mathematical problem. The Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) revealed that six in every ten standard three pupils have repeated classes.

The two reports prompted the school principals attending their annual conference in Mombasa this year (2010), to call for the overhauling of the current 8-4-4 system of education (eight years primary, four years secondary and four years university), and recruitment of more teachers. But a study on the best education practices in the world titled “How the World’s Best Performing School Systems Come Out on Top”, indicates that low quality teachers especially at the primary school level are to blame for the sorry states of affairs in our education system.

According to the report, poor performers recruited into the teaching profession, coupled with poor training is inflicting permanent damage on young learners in primary schools.

Low D-grades

“The quality of education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers” the report asserted. The report revealed that the best education system in the world recruit their teachers from the top of the class, whereas candidates with as low as D-grades still make it into teaching in Kenya. The Kenyan situation is further compounded by a flawed teacher-training curriculum that according to education experts has not been reviewed for decades.

“Some of them (Primary school teachers) have failed in English and mathematics, and are posted to teach the same subjects in our schools, if you expect them to deliver, forget it”.

A close look at the best education practices in the world indicates that what Kenya needs is not just an overhaul of the school curriculum, but a complete review of teacher training college recruitment criteria as well as well as Teacher Training College curriculum – or else no amount of Free Primary Education cash will make class three pupils stop repeating classes and class eight pupils solve class two mathematic problems.


Education researchers say that spending more on hiring more teachers, or even increasing the overall education budget have little impact on performance of pupils.