Students' Perceptions Of Ethnicity and Learning: A case study of the United States International University (USIU)

  • K Nakamura


Kenya is an ethnically diverse country comprising over forty ethnic groups. While the diversity should make up the richness of culture and ways of life, the ‘tribe' mentality is the root cause of many problems that Sub-Sahara African nations face. In Africa, different ethnic groups compete for national resource such as “land, political power, natural resources, social and economic power” (Osore 2008), and “tribalism still infuses all aspects of society” (Wax 2005). Sadly, higher education does not seem to be an exception. That could be the reason why in the past, the Kenyan Government used to exercise a lot of control over the public universities in terms of contents of curriculum, hiring and firing of staff and lecturers, approving conference and seminars, among many others, in order to meet its own political ends, thus curtailing academic freedom (Mwiria 2001). After the introduction of multipartism in 1992, the situation began changing with the State and other political formations now competing to influence the educational sector. For instance, some months before the general election in December 2007, many of the student bodies of the public universities' were reportedly re-aligned to one of three major political forces of the time, which were aligned to some ethnic groups. “Tribalism and ethnicity have almost become the second name for the student body,” and “the tribal politics being played out between the ODM and the PNU1 groupings have been extended wholesale to the student community”2. During the last General Election, the two leading political parties of the time approached the Students Affairs Council, the students' Affairs body at United States International University (USIU), a private university, but the student officials declined to be associated with any of the political parties, as it was against the policy of the university3. Consequently, there was no election campaign that took place on the USIU campus. This paper attempts to investigate whether or not ethnicity is a determinant of student learning at university in a country like Kenya that is rocked by ethnic violence.

Journal of Language, Technology & Entrepreneurship in Africa Vol. 1 (2) 2009: pp. 76-89

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eISSN: 1998-1279