What Students in Higher Learning Go through in Kenya

When I embarked on my journey for higher learning I thought it was only my cohort going through challenges till I met with several students in various public universities going through very hard time. Lemme just talk about a few issues that Ive heard of or personally come across.

  1. Problems getting a supervisor especially if in satellite campus: It is possible to stay for upto 2 years with out a supervisor. In my case, we were given names and numbers . Matter of fact all 5 of us were given one supervisor who at the time was an MD somewhere and also running for the senate. Then when that one did not work out we were given the numbers of other supervisors. Who completely ignored our calls and emails for about a year and a half. They would hide from us. Tell their secretaries they dont want to see us. At the end of my rope , and I was the class rep I went to see the Principal of the School , a very understanding and sombre older gentleman who made it clear to me that he had made an exception to see me because he doesnt see people without atleast a month prior appointment. When I told him its going to 2 years after course work. And after camping outside offices and stalking the supervisors whose numbers were randomly given we are none the better off for it.Still at square 1. So the gentleman told me I am telling you as I would my own child, these lecturers are terrible and if I get involved what will happen is they will victimise you for it. He then proceeded to tell me of a staff in that university who was doing a PhD and had a falling out with one of his supervisors. The supervisors poisoined all other dons ,the man took a good 12 years of being frustrated and bounced around to finally graduate. He therefore advised to trend softly and handle the dons with care because they could be lethal if I did not opt to ‘bembeleza’ them .

  2. Financial and other favours: Supervisors have developed a knack for extortion. They extort money out of students to supervise them, they even compel students to get internships and jobs for their kin. I know of a guy who paid 200k in cash to a UON don to be supervised. As if that wasnt enough, the guy would ask him to mpesa the don money for fuel and his stalled construction projects after the fact. I had a classmate himself a lecturer , who would spend 30-50k a weekend entertaining his supervisor and the company he would be in. Its just an unwritten rule in Kenyan academia that if you meet your supervisor at any establishment which alot of the time they insist on meeting students in , you the student pay for him and whatever company he will have . For all their drinks and food and whatever else they may want because if you do not, you may end up being blocked by them or never hearing back from them for your work. I will be very honest and say that I myself have paid those bills and also gotten internships and jobs for a supervisor’s people. My collegues who werent as cooperative have not graduated for the last 7 years ,most have abandoned the course altgether after paying aboout 500k for fees and went on to do their masters and PhDs elsewhere forgettting about the course we did because to them its just not worth the trouble. I even heard of a student at Moi University whose supervisor would not meet him anywhere but at a pub then the don would order a crate of beer and discuss the thesis until he got too inebriated . Btw it is not only your supervisors that expect bribes. Their secretary and the staff who move your documents from the department to the board of post graduate studies. The staff there also need bribes to find your document and to move it along for a defence date. Every student I have encountered who had a difficult supervisor, once I advised them to do shopping for the supervisor especially if its a female supervisor,buy gifts, give money, even to the secretary because secretaries can block you, even lie that the person is not in. There are also other brokers who are usually other members of staff or teaching fellows who act as go between particularly when seeking out a supervisor ,before you find one you can establish rapport with , who will extort a great deal of money and favours from you to introduce you to good supervisors- the ones known to be abit more reliable.

  3. Sexual harassment: I think we all know that university dons are the mother of all woman eaters. Supervisors often make overtures on their female students but it starts with only being available in the evenings when others have left the offices or at dimly lit establishments that make it look more like a date than a supervision meeting. I myself had one supervisor who would only meet me at night, in recreational establishments. I made a habit of never ever going alone.In the end I had to drop him after he called me and asked me why I never meet him alone and openly made sexual advances at me. If I met a supervisor later in the evening at his office when others had left I recorded the entire conversation, left the door opened and ensured that there was distance between us. Like a desk, even if he insists that you go over to his side of the desk, just ignore and remain on the other side of the desk. Make sure you never go to see supervisor dressed in an alluring manner like if it is on a Friday and Saturday evening and you have plans for dinner . Ensure that you wear no makeup and wear very drab clothes for the meeting,carry your dinner attire , then go and change for your date after you are done with the supervisor. Avoid personal conversation by being evasive and alot of eye contact as well. Be as modest and understated as you can be. When being supervised you can not afford to be an attractive woman because this will pose a huge problem for you with some male supervisors.

  4. No supervision past proposal stage: To be fair I believe varsity dons are overworked. It is just impossible for one person supervising 30-50 Masters- PhD thesis to go through them . Plus teach - I have lectured a few times in universities - its grueling work , you have to hand in cats,supplementaries,main exams,marking schemes before the sem begins then in public unis you could have upto 3k students , hence the infamous story of how lecturers throw papers up and grade depending on where papers fall. Lecturers pay students to mark those scripts and its accepted because theres no way one person can do all that work. So basically , what I am saying is that after your proposal you are on your own, the only thing your supervisors will do will be to sign your document and you should only approach them with challenges that you have looked all over and cant figure out ONLY. Dont expect them to read your thesis beyond proposal stage the same goes for external examiners. during defence is the only time you can get a thorough evaluation of your work and I think with the large number of PhD graduants even that is becoming a tall order. The entire process has just become a conveyor belt. Secondary supervisors especially never even look at your work as long as supervisor one has signed , they go ahead and sign too with not even a glance at the document.

  5. The procedure/process to follow can be very confusing for newbies: If you want a clear understanding of what the procedure is to go about your thesis ,please speak to a person who has graduated because particularly in satellite campuses, you can get 5 different procedures and none of them is the right one. Then your supervisor can give you another procedure ,as does the department and the board of post graduate studies. So to avoid confusion and frustration , do your best to find someone who has graduated to help you learn the ropes. Also documents get lost all the time in varsities so ensure that you keep copies of everything you do, if you have an original copy signed by your supervisors that you must hand in, do a scan and a color print out of the signature page that is an exact replica so that if the department or campus loses your document and this happens ALOT, you dont have to go back to your supervisors to sign again because it pisses them off. Also if you can physically take your document round for the recquired signatures , for example there are signatures from the director of campus,dean of department and head of board of post graduate studies and requisite forwarding letters. Just do the leg work rather than leave your documents to follow the process. You may discover 3,4 even 8 months down the line that your document has either never moved or is lost.

Higher education is a jungle and if you have or have had good supervisors, just thank your God and do your best to keep in good books whatever their flaws may be because you may leave a frying pan and fall into the fire. I have read blogs from people doing PhDs in the west and it looks even more stark than here. Though most people who left Kenya for their PhD abroad have nothing but glowing references for their western supervisors. Recently I saw a Kenyan talking about how him and his supervisor did 5 back and forths on his proposal while the super was on a flight to ensure the guy was ready for his defence. Please dont expect this in Kenya even in your dreams. Doing a PhD is a life transforming rite of passage for anyone who lives the life of the mind and it is baptism by fire especially if umezoea Private unis where things run smoothly and the student comes first. It is a pressure cooker and its very true that people do go berserk because of the pressure. I myself had a serious road accident because I hadnt slept in days and my entire mind was engrossed on beating the deadline. Take ubers , have breaks - the world isnt ending so dont risk your life by driving when you are spaced out because you gotta have that PhD. And you gotta have it now,now,now. You could be dead and graduate posthumously. So your life and your wellbeing comes first because if theres no you theres no need for that PhD is there?

Oh when you feel depressed ,frustrated and at the end of your rope in your journey of higher learning , visit this site its bound to pick you up a notch or two. Aluta Continua Comrades.


Makogha ako na hard time !


@TrumanCapote I hope yours was not one of the discredited JeiKwat PhDs?

:D:D:D:D:D… kwani iko PhD ya typology na YouTube video engineering?

University education is a labyrinth of debt and extreme stress ,Soma short courses and do it yourself course’s

Nanii wacha masarau ya peni mbili. The here lady is a PhD holder/student… More respect to her, video engineering notwithstanding.

I had joined but after our classes were allocated to be taught by people outside the country as if lecturers wameisha Kenya who wouldnt even do skype with us at our request, I dropped out but I know my former classmates are in this cohort .One of them is a villager. I asked them that we see the administration about the raw deal we were getting with us getting lecturers who were outside the country wakasema maisha ni kuvumilia. I left them vumiliaring. Now they graduated with contentious papers. One guy who finished one year before us works at NTSA graduated in one year straight with a PhD if you can believe it. Things had really gone to the dogs in that place. It was really only just a matter of time before itt blew up in their face.

Matter of fact my MSC supervisor who is right in the cusp of this shit storm for supervising 10 PhDs(he did his PhD abroad and his post grad diploma at Oxford) told me that I shouldnt do a PhD in Kenya ---- because in his words … all they want is money. Nuff Said.

@Karoga I told you.

i also over heard:D as i passed by

Kwani lazima mfanye hizo PhD? Siwezi bembeleza mtu Mimi. Unanionyesha madharau, I pay some goons to beat the shyeeet out of you. Narudi kwako a few days later, ukileta madharau tena kichapo. Until you put 2 and 2 together and fast track that supervision.

this word is tread. imeanza kukuwa kama am and I’m. free education and its pitfalls.
but cool story though

:D:D Pia mimi napea goons hiyo pesa.

Hapo kwa number 3…si dressing down will mean he will still mark you down given that you are offering nada? A very sad situation overall.

what did I read?

all guys usually looked at girls who passed with suspicion , most guys were stressed and looked defeated but most ghels were having the time of their lives cruising through courses… i still wonder why ? …life was hard for us man !


Being attractive is looking for trouble. I did all this and I still got sexual advances . Inspite of not wearing makeup and dressing down for ‘meetings’ which were always in a very unprofessional place. Where the man would be drinking. I always had male company when I went to see him, my sixth sense told me , I wasnt safe because he could have easily met me at his office coz even his classes would end at 4pm but he was only available to meet me after 8pm at a hotel and not just a regular hotel – the pub in the hotel - usually it was the high end hotels and he always wanted to meet up in dimly lit places with alcohol. The last time I was accompanied by 4 men and he was so pissed , he openly said infront of them that I shouldnt have to have company to come see him because he is past making passes at women, he is too mature for that. The next weekend he called me and openly asked me why I wont meet him alone , and how he is lying naked thinking about me. By that time he had even tried to trap me by pressurising me to get a letter from the administration appointing him as my supervisor. He said after that month he wouldnt supervise me anymore without the letter. And I tried to get the letter but by God’s grace admin didnt give it to me. I was wondering why is he really insisting on the letter when even my primary supervisor has never asked me for an appointment letter, by the way it came in the mail , when I was about to graduate. Basically he wanted to trap me because its me who would have pushed for the appointment letter then if I decline his advances I have to go back to the same admin and tell 'em that I dont want this guy as my supervisor anymore - after Ive been pushing them for them to appoint him officially. So after that phonecall. I blocked him and never spoke to or saw him again. It was very disappointing coz he was a pretty good supervisor. Matter of fact one day before he decided to clearly state his true intentions.I asked him about the story of the guy who was a staff there who was frustrated for 12 years to finish his PhD. He told me he was the last person to supervise that guy and that he was just being frustrated because his thesis was actually complete and he graduated 6 months after.

This is all fake news… there is no such thing happening especially at the UoN… either something is seriously wrong with where you studied or something is wrong with you to have to attract this kind of experiences.

Yep. 1 year and not a day later. His dad was a vc in masinde muliro or some uni , he was a lunje . so the dean who was his primary supervisor is a lunje. And his secondary supervisor is a lady who has a travel agency and sells ‘educational’ trips to students like when I was there she was selling us a trip to was it formula 1 sijui where Uhuru goes , she was trying to make it look very educational , his primary supervisor is the one who supervised 16 PhDs, who few years back was in another scandal where MBAs from satellite unis where paying 200k and graduating them without them doing their projects, they demoted him and then again made him the dean again and now this.

Do you work at UON ama you are a student? Do you know that UON dons are the wealthiest dons in Kenya? Where do you think they get the money kuinua flat after flat after flat like a chinese costruction company? Its the students duh! I mean if you can get 200k for a master supervision off the books .How lucrative is that?