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Archive for November, 2006

CnnEducation ran a story on 11.20.2006 (if link no longer active, simply google it or contact CNN for archive articles) that suggests that European universities are not as good as you may imagine.

Many students and parents from East Africa still hold to old notions about education in Europe. Hopely, this article, unlike the usual glossy marketing brochure you get from the University recruiters or the British Council, will assist some think a bit objectively when seeking where to go spend their hard earned dollars. Below are a summary of the points mentioned in the story.

  • Europe’s universities don’t provide the skills and research needed to help the continent prosper and compete with rapidly growing economies in Asia and elsewhere, according to international rankings, school presidents, students and European Union officials.
      For example, Germany, France and Italy spend just 1.1% of gross domestic product on higher education, nearly all of that from state funds, says the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The U.S. spends 2.6% — with private endowments funding the majority.
  • British universities are actively recruiting international students, who pay higher tuition.
  • The OECD says China and India are adapting faster than the United States and the EU and are producing more high-skilled workers for 21st century needs.
  • Students receive little guidance. European college dropout rates average 40%. One survey found that more than a third of adults in the EU cannot perform basic computer tasks such as using a mouse to access an Internet site or working with a word-processing program
      “Many go to university because they think it’s prestigious. But most of us know that we may still be working at the sandwich shop”
  • Only two European universities (Oxford and Cambridge ) made it in the top 20 of the Academic Ranking of World Universities, a list compiled by researchers at Shanghai Jiao Tong University and based largely on the number of Nobel and Fields prizes by staff and alumni and publications in leading journals.
      One was in Japan, Tokyo University, and all the rest in the top 20 were in the United States, led by Harvard, Stanford, the University of California at Berkeley and MIT.
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So when Hon Njonjo was ‘young’ he looked down upon the Kisumu residents and chided them at their unhealthy habitation that made them prone to Cholera? So Hon. Njonjo now thinks otherwise? So others feel he really has no change of heart? So nobody knows the truth? Well, think about this: when young and having no hindsight of experience, don’t we all say and do things we later on in life would want to undo? But here is one thing Hon. Njonjo can do that will speak louder than words and silence all his enemies.

To show his goodwill and magnamity towards the people of Kisumu and Kenya as a whole, why, just build a Hospital in Kisumu, named in his honor as the Sir Charles Mugane Njonjo Memorial Hospital. This Hospital should specialize in treating water-born diseases such as cholera, tyhoid, etc that is still to be found in the area. It could serve area residents at subsidized or full rates.

This would be something equal to Hon. Njonjo’s status, wealth and christian charity. And come to think about it, the best way to disorient your enemy is to give him a glass of water!

Talking of which, which is the best way to show off your wealth anyway? Charity! Wealthy kenyans and africans, why keep the cash “under your mattress” or struggle to find an offshore laundry facility? We all know, you can never carry it with you, finally, anyway. And as to leaving it all to your sons and dotas, well, who knows whether they will squander it off quickly, since, anyway, they never felt the “pain” of gathering it in the first place? Seems to me most wealthy Kenyans never seem to get it. Look at what the Bill Gates and the Warren Buffets are doing. They are not getting any poorer by giving away part of their wealth, or are they?(OK, you nay sayers, it does not matter that in their doing so they reduce their tax burden). But then again maybe i am comparing oranges to apples. Some acquired their wealth legitimately, while others , eh, grabbed it? There seems to be a big psychological difference in how you hold onto what your worked hard for and what you “grabbed or “just got” from someone else.

Coming back to kenyans, there are all these wealthy guys (Hon. Nicholas “Kirgit” Biwott, Philip and/or Duncan Ndegwa, Chris Kirubi, Stanley ‘Don King’ Githunguri, Prez. Moi and Sons, Kamlesh Pattni, etc, etc, etc). Some of them even claim affiliation to a form of christianity. Why not invest in Charity? In “losing” you gain. And do not limit your projects to those that benefit “my people”, but stretch your hand, if not heart, even to your “enemies”. It is not only a mark of true greatness, but also what your christian Master would want of you. Look at Bill Gates. His Charity is directed mainly towards non Caucasians (i.e. to use our language, those who are not “his people”). There is a great man. All others are but little men!

And as a final tip, assuming the wealth was gotten in a way that makes the heart fearful and the mind peaceless. You are forced to seek a mattress in switzerland. Or pay someone to get the Krolls Associates off your back. But if you build a Kamlesh Pattni University, or the Kabarmoi university of Moyale or The Lima College of Agriculture at Koru, it seems to me, the kenyan people, who are known to be very forgiving and very forgetful, are likely to make a hero of you. Not to mention quenching the degree thirst and saving the country billions of dollars.

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There is this Visa check card commercial that is currently airing that goes something like this: Everything is moving super fast at the check out counters of stores and restaurants that accep the visa check card. Everybody rapidly swipes their Visa check card and everything happens in perfect synchrony, until a clueless guy removes his wallet and pays with cash. As expected, chaos ensures and everything grinds to a stand still until he sheepishly and almost apologetically removes himself out of the checkout queue. The message is clear.

I am sure non of us would in the least be surprised, if you woke up one morning and learned that there is a new regulation that required all financial transactions to be carried out in plastic. Nor would you be unreceptive if the financial institutions introduced a more friendlier and theft-proof RFID-type micro or nano cards that you can conveniently carry, ah, on your skin or under the skin. No more wallet or purse bulging with various cards. No more lost cards. No more need to remember pins or signing slips at the checkout counter. It would be so much more onvenient.

Now if i informed you that a small thinker, scientist and economist recommended and presented a design for this kind of a system 2000 years ago, you would go, “No way. 100 years ago, perhaps, 2000 ago, not likely“. What if i further informed you that the same guy, a Jewish man, also had a complete design of the Nuclear bomb? Writing for the popular magazine (Καινὴ Διαθήκη), which was in circulation between c. 45 AD and c. 140 AD, and which was a continuation of the popular Jewish works, the Tanakh, he says, (i quote and freely paraphrase from the English version for our modern readers):

everyone (small and great, rich and poor, employers and employees, the debt-free and the indebted, the free and the enslaved), need to have a mark or a unique number on the right hand or forehead. Without this unique number it should be impossible to buy or sell anything.” AND

The energy from the blast of the said device is enough to melt the skin off the bones of a human being in milliseconds, even before the body hits the ground. And it takes months to bury the bones and to fully decontaminate the affected area from the radioactive material produced

Really? Who was this guy? John Doe. Socrates and Plato we know about and honour for their contribution to the modern society. John Doe, aka John ben Zebeddee’s failure of recognition among our educated is that he claimed divine inspiration for his works. But is there really such a thing as divine inspiration?

Good question. You tell me; how could one simple Jewish man (and uneducated in the knowledge of his time, and there being no advanced knowledge of science as we know it at that time) come up with such complex military and technological designs that has taken thousands of brilliant scientists in our time years and collaboration to build?

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When we were young, one of our great pastimes was spending time in the bushes hunting little critters. How we loved the butterflies! They were so beautiful. So many colors! If we caught one, which was rare (until our science class introduced us to a net), after playing with it we would of course let it go. It was unforgivable to kill a butterfly. A caterpillar? Oh we would not bother much with it, and if one got crushed underfoot accidentally (or intentionally), who cared?. Whenever we found a chrysalis, thinking that it is just a mass of nothing, we would pull it off the twigs and destroy it.

Why this peculiar behavior? Of course, being ignorant of the life cycle of the butterfly, we did not realize that destroying the chrysalis was no different than killing the beautiful butterfly we so loved.

When we finally understood (thanks to our science class), the various stages of the life of the butterfly, we felt bad, but, what was done was done. This reminds me how terrible it is to destroy something in nature just because in your finite mind (or because science has not yet shed enough light on the matter to enable its full understanding) what you do not fully understand.

So, is an embryo just a mass of cells that can be destroyed or harvested for use in other experimental processes? Or is it the early stages of a beautiful baby girl with chubby cheeks that we all love to “pinch” and go “Oh, so beautiful”? If it is not life, then when did that life begin? To me, seems the life began when the two became one. When the unique DNA of Ashely or Shiroh or Atieno was encoded. You may believe differently. You may even have heard that science supports what you believe. Science uncovers what is in nature. People give interpretation to the observations, and subjectively, of course. People change, the underlying object that science observes does not change. Just the other day we thought that Pluto was a planet, now we do not. But that object referred to as Pluto remains. There was a time we believed neutrons were the smallest particles in the nucleon, now we know there are composed of quarks and are not neutral but they interact with other particles.

Who knows, a few years from now that mass may be defined as a baby. You will be left with a feeling of emptiness and guilt. The scientist? Oh, he will probably be writing another grant proposal for another study, and maybe enjoying the cash proceeds of his IP or enjoying the fame of his nobel prize.

So, when in doubt, always take the safest route.

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(i)There is no universal “right way” to respond to a confrontation

(ii)Be aware of your sarrounding and try not to travel alone in areas known to be high risk

(iii) There is no “right way” but most experts agree that you should not resist, but should surrender your property (for life’s sake, it is just a car! Yeah, yeah, you saved for it or spend a lot on it, but it is just metal pieces and plastic moldings, it is desposable) to prevent the crime escalating

(iv) Take no action that would jeorpadize your safety and that of anyone near you

(v) Follow the thief’s instruction, but do not voulunteer information

(vi) Advice the thief of any unusual moves you make, assuring them that you will cooperate

(vii) Try to remmeber as much as you can about the thief and the vehicles involve, but do not tell him you aware of these things, unless it is obvious.

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