OCHIENG: Political parties should invest in research units

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In Kenya, the attitude – created by the structure and content of competitive politics – is that whenever it is a Government initiative, then something must be hidden in it designed to injure social welfare.

Deputy President William Ruto thus did well earlier this week to “chide” the opposition for its habit – as the Nation put it – of “opposing everything” that the Government may propose to do.

To be quite sure, all the opposition parties are duty-bound to point it out whenever they think that the Government is sleeping on the job or taking the whole nation for a ride.

But the point to emphasise is that every one of the opposition’s comments on all such Government activities must come only from a position of really objective knowledge of what is going on.

The habit by our world’s opposition parties of trying to gain popularity by bearing false witness to governmental activities harms only the opposition’s own alleged patients, namely, the people.

Where a snide comment is based only on hearsay – itself based, in turn, only on ethnic prejudices of the kind notorious in our country – there, it is likely to raise unnecessary tempers and create a security situation that might prove extremely costly for the nation to quell. 

My appeal to all our political parties, especially the ruling one, is for each of them to create a serious and copiously funded study group or research unit designed  to create really objective and quality knowledge concerning not only their policy initiatives but also of the country’s econo-ethnological situation.

Permanent research studies into these social circumstances are one method by which a party can know in which location it is most popular and where it is not.

This should be perennially useful to those in charge of a party’s planning machinery, to enable them to channel their meagre financial and personnel resources accurately, appropriately and adequately. 

Let me emphasise this. As the Hebrew Bible informs us again and again concerning ancient Israel’s prophets, full knowledge of one’s society – its attitude and its collective desires at any one point – this is the secret behind all prophecy.

The thing about all of Israel’s prophets was their minute and close knowledge of the people’s mood, weaknesses, desires and even strengths on any single occasion.

Perhaps the university is modern society’s equivalent of ancient Israel’s school of prophecy as an institution. 

But, if so, then a disturbing question arises for our education planners.

How are Kenya’s universities situated with regard to the production of our Isaiahs, Jeremiahs and Jesuses of knowledge and of production and development of Kenya’s welfare today and in the near future?

Widespread and keen theoretical knowledge and technological skill are the only ways in which a society’s leaders can accurately plan for and smoothly deliver a good future.

Knowledge and skill are the only means by which we can adequately finance the necessary activities in terms not only of production of consumer and producer goods but also of the personnel and ideas with which to do so.

That – if you ask me – is why Kenya must invest all the necessary resources (money, teachers, books, machines, laboratories) in the education and training of all its children.

For it is from its present children that Kenya may one day soon come by all its Newtons, Einsteins and Hawkings of intellectual knowledge and  technological skill and by all its Isaiahs, Jeremiahs and  Jesuses of socio-moral commitment.

How can we do it? I don’t know. But let me emphasise, once again, that this is knowledge that we can, as a society, acquire only if we put our heads together.

The time may have arrived at which those in charge of our national education and training should call a national conference during which to thrash this question out and agree on a formula on how to implement it.