Transcript: Panel 1 at Archiving Kenya's Past and Futures


Transcript of Panel 1 Discussion at "Archiving Kenya’s Past and Futures: Stewardship and Care of Research Data"

November 12, 2019

Venue: McMillan Library


Moderator: Leonida Mutuku


Leah Komen

Joyce Wangari

John Osogo Ambani

Njuki Githethwa


Initial transcript done by and cleaned and edited by Trevas Matathia with final edits by Angela Okune. Video footage of the proceedings can be found here.


Angela Okune  0:00 

This panel is on promoting and supporting student interest in research and archiving, and really tackling some of the questions of higher education and pedagogy. Where are emerging researchers currently being trained on research and archiving? How are the topics of maintenance and stewardship being taught? Who's doing this work within the research institutions? And what are the kind of opportunities and challenges? I'm especially interested in how libraries and archives are thinking about research data. And how are research organizations feeding in such data?

Leonida Mutuku  0:29 

Before maybe we jump into the panel, the different panelists, can introduce themselves. Just give a brief of who you are and what you do for your organization. Thanks. 

Wangari Joyce  0:36 

Good morning. My name is Wangari Joyce. I am a research mentor over last 10 years and a clinical psychologist for the last 13 years. I am representing Eider Africa. One of the wonderful things of being a mentee and a mentor is that sometimes you're sitting in the presence of your mentor so Eider Africa executive director, Aurelia, please wave. Yes. And I hope I'll meet her expectations today. Sometimes, you know, you're sent somewhere and you deliver report later, but this time she's here in the audience. Thank you very much for inviting me. Yeah. And I'm also here with a colleague of mine. I do research in deaf studies. And my colleague, Amina, please wave. She's developed an app called deaf op that promotes sexual and reproductive health education for the deaf in Kenyan sign language. So thank you very much Amina for being here. [audience claps]

John Ambani  1:20 

My name is John Ambani and I teach at Strathmore Law School. I also edit the Strathmore Law Journal as well as edit the Strathmore University Press publications. I'm happy to be here, and to learn together with you, thank you.

Leah Komen  1:33 

Hi. My name is Leah Komen from Daystar University. I lecture there, I also serve at the research office. My area of expertise would be development communication. And I'm very happy and honored to have been invited Angie, and I'm looking forward to what this conference holds. Particulary when you're giving the talk and I was thinking, that's a place we could plunge in, we just had a short discussion with Rhoda from National Museum. And I was like yeah, there's a lot that we can do. So maybe we are not that over researched. Maybe we need to (inaudible)

Njuki Githethwa 2:15 

Morning, everyone. [Audience responds with "good morning"] My name is Njuki Githethwa. And I wear many hats but principally coming here is wearing two hats. One of them is I teach at Tangaza University various courses in Development studies. But I'm also associated with Ukombozi library which is just around here. Ukombozi in English means liberation. In a small library like this one of course even books are different and this is exactly what maybe brings me here. But coming to McMillan library for me was really very emotional because this was the library which shaped our times and our generation. I told the attendats there that it is very powerful that you have held this at McMillan because coming to McMillan is coming to a temple of knowledge, particularly to those of us who grew up in what we call the street universities. Organic intellectuals who didn't go to public universities. We used to congregate here in McMillan and read all these books, talk, meet. And I think this is very powerful for us coming to these kinds of public spaces.

Leonida Mutuku  4:07 

Thank you. So, welcome. I'll probably ask a two in one question. So all of you are involved in building capacity for the next group of researchers, you know, emerging scholars in institutions. So, how do you do that? And are you able to name a couple of challenges that you face, especially when teaching new researchers about research data and archiving. Maybe you can go first.

Wangari Joyce  4:53 

Eider Africa provides online and offline mentorship, that is lifelong learning. For mostly the target niche is post grad students and undergraduate students, as well as training university lecturers on inclusive research methodology. So working with students, as a lecturer in the university for many years, I finally decided it was time to get a space where, you know, we could really just have conversations. The game changer for Eider Africa is actually peer to peer learning. And the biggest challenge for students is where to access resources, support. I can tell you because I'm a doctoral student at USIU Africa, studying clinical psychology and even I have some challenges accessing information, if I want to know where for example, deaf people in Kenya, what kind of challenges they face. That information is not really readily available yet. So I'd say that is one of the biggest challenges for students.

Leonida Mutuku  6:03 


Wangari Joyce  6:14 

Right. So I will say on behalf of students, a lot of students will use libraries, their university libraries, higher learning institution libraries, and perhaps free sources. So a lot of them are now familiar with, say, for example, Google Scholar, but you can be sure a lot of them are not aware of any other, you know, options available. So that's a really big challenge.

John Ambani  6:45 

I think the first question is, obviously the university because the university's purpose is to, to research. The first agenda of any University should be to research and then of course to disseminate it to others, and then community service, I think in that order. And so, obviously, what we do on a daily basis is to...ourselves as faculty to research and to impact our students. So the principle agenda and I think of every qualified lecturer is then to inspire students to be able to also research on their own. And we do that on a daily basis. However, in my special role say as editor in chief of the University Press, then you wanted us to move a notch higher. And so we have two journals at the university. One is Strathmore Law Review. Actually, a former editor came with me there, she's behind there, she's called Melissa, when she was a student. Now she's my colleague. She was among the pioneers. So you start a journal that is student edited, and they have to get publications. So look for writers and edit them on their own, probably just asking for guidance when they need it. That has proved to be a very, very serious way for the students that then get involved, they're doing very well in research themselves. And and have tended to now get interested in pursuing an academic career like herself and others that have worked with her. I think that's a very good way. We also have a staff-edited publication, Strathmore Law Journal that is an academic forum for exchanging ideas. And again, that has encouraged a lot of writing. And then we also do books. You know, several manuscripts coming every year. And another way of encouraging the broader community, not just Kenya, but beyond Kenya to also think about ideas and write. I found that to be quite useful. The work is laborous, its a lot, that's the biggest challenge, I think there, but I think someone always has to sacrifice. I think for everything you see, including this library, someone had to carry the brick. One by one. And I think the editors then become the labourers that do that kind of job. I've also tried in the university to do things beyond class. Like, I cordinate a forum called the Hut of African ideas, African scholarship and we only discuss African problems only discuss works by Africans. And that happens every Friday after 5pm. It's open really to many people. Even you could come and I have found that students that get interested in that, begin to ask questions about African problems. They begin to think about how can we come out of this situation? And by being curious, you automatically become a researcher and you begin to seek knowledge and information. And that has proved to be quite useful. If I may say, about challenges, I think the biggest challenge we are having, even at university is that I think society doesn't value research. A society in which our students come from, in which our lecturers come from. It's a society that is upside down. And I'm happy that this kind of forums are being organized. If a society where, for example, being a celebrity or a socialite is more celebrated than being a researcher, I don't know how often you see a researcher on television for example, discussing his research outputs. It never happens anymore. Books and book men and such good programs are not there any more. It is just about a new celebrity somewhere and the whole Sunday newspaper is about that isn't it? And the students growing up in this kind of society will never see a researcher being celebrated and they might not have that interest, I think that's a major problem that we have. If I came to the last question you asked about archiving. We try to have our books and journals online for free, like our journals are online, not just on our University website but also online and I think we try to put it in accessible mode so that everybody can access them. Of course, there's the challenge of cost because we use money. So only those books that we are able to fundraise for then can be on the website. But the journals are there. But the books that we have to pay, you know, it's a lot of money to make books, and we obviously have to sell those as well. But I think the other challenge would be the costing, but we try as much as possible to put them freely online so that our society can access them. I hope that can begin the conversation for me. Thank you.

Leah Komen  11:37 

Thank you. I feel like I'll be repeating what he said about research database. What we do we have information literacy sessions or trainings, where we expose the students and the faculty to digital skills, how do you access information that you're looking for? How do you check for validity of those sources when you're doing your research and once it is ready, then how do you publish? Which ones are predatory journals, which ones are the real ones? So these are a lot of questions along the way, even as we write and as we publish, but the encouragement is that the student as much as the faculty have something to offer. So they encouraged to step in, and also contribute. What I see as the challenge, though, besides the publications and what have you, is even the tedious process of getting published. You have people who have something to contribute, but time for some time evades them. In as much as they say, if you want something done, give to a busy person. Sometimes that busy person is really busy. The idea is it's difficult to get that out there, but they are definitely coming out. Having said that, there is also the challenge of the whole mindset -- I think he alluded to that when he was coming to the challenges -- where on one hand, we know the university exists for academic and research. But we focus more on the academic, you know, how many courses are you teaching? What are your grades, blah, blah, blah, but there is very little when it comes to research. And this is not for Daystar I'm talking about from a global perspective. And therefore, if we really want to have research that Angela was talking about and Leo, but it's having some practical results that people can actually attribute and make it work for them, then we need to research more. And that's what I was thinking maybe we're not over-researched, maybe we have things out there. But how many of us know what is out there? Maybe if we were honest there are people who came here for the first time. So you can imagine there are things out there but they're not really that visible to everybody so to speak. So there are challenges when it comes to processing that research output, displaying it and disseminating it, but also what is the general public, are they receptive to the findings, do we even feel like we need to give it to them? Think about the raw data when the students have done their theses or even the faculty. And they have come from the qualitative point of view and they have their audio, or they have their content analysis, what have you, when they come for their defenses, do they bring those things as part of the things to be examined? Perhaps not. Because the assumption is they have been examined by the supervisors, it is ready and therefore this document passes. But where do those CDs or videos go? Where they kept for how long? Who takes care of it? Must we even record it? Do we re-use them? So what happens to the ones that we use? So there's a lot of those gaps still standing and we asking, then, if we are going to the open access? What are we accessing? Whose cloud like you said, and so there is that also coming in and so the other of course challenge comes with the when we think about the open access, it comes to the internet. So we asking, do we have the bandwidth? Do we have enough of that? How many of us can access? So there is that the ICT skills is not just googling and finding something, but is your find the correct one. How do you know it's the correct one?

Leonida Mutuku  15:18 

Yeah, probably before you answer. I'll throw back a lot of her questions back to you. In terms of yeah, what does happen to that raw data from from the research that your students are producing? So you can answer too.

Njuki Githethwa  15:35 

Although I'm much more now in the academia, I'll come from my activist background, not really academia, the people I call organics and intellectuals because to me, I think the biggest process that we need to tap is not essentially the people who are able to go to the universities and colleges and academies of learning. But people in the streets, people who didn't have a chance to be able to go to mainstream universities and colleges. People who are grappling and engaging with knowledge to be able to develop their lives in a huge way. I think this is the activist background. And that's why I will talk a little bit about Ukombozi. In the 1970s and 80s, and we have seen pictures here of Ngugi, Maina wa Kingati, Abdilatif Abdalla, there was a whole crackdown that happened within academia, where people were arrested for reasons of having a small publication, which was not even radical, a pub like that of MwaKenya, PamBana and all those, in the 80's. People like Ngugi went in exile for very flimsy reasons and many of our friends were jailed for many years in detention and jails and exiles. So and there were books that these people were using in the underground. Many of the books were with movements - DTM, [inaudible] movements, mwaKenya, Uwak, all those books. Now Ukombozi library, which is a nonprofit library organization; we set it up to be able to bring to light thousands and thousands of books, which were used by the underground then. And when you go to Ukombozi Library which is on University way, it is those books that made people to go to jail. Those books, the government thought they were not for readership, it is those books that you will find there and those mainly were leftist books. And so what was our motive really is to make particularly the younger generation to be able to interrogate knowledge that has in the past inspired the struggles and what is happening today. So you find that our library is very popular now particularly with young students, particularly from the University of Nairobi; Universities in the Central Business District for example, Polytechnic University, and others come. And you find that, and this is where even where I teach the challenge is coming on that the university that we are teaching right now, there is kind of a market orientation to a lot of things that we do, for example, entrepreneurship, in terms of business skills. They will tell you what's the meaning of history, what's the meaning of literature? What's the meaning of a lot of other liberal arts things, and even when you teach there you don't, you don't find this critical, critical knowledge. Students don't analyze a lot of things that we do particulary because there are exams and they have to pass and they have to graduate. So what we do at Ukombozi Library is we set up three powerful structures. One of them is that we have study sessions. The Study Sessions is where students now come from anywhere, even activists. They come and discuss papers and books in a group and this is very very powerful for us, we do it almost every week. But the other thing that we have have introduced is that once a student has come to such a library and picks a book. Literature and reading has been a very solitary affair, you take the book to your house and you read, you come to library borrow another book like that. Us at Ukombozi we are stopping that. We are encouraging that yes, but we are saying once you read a book, review that book, send us a review, we shall organize for you a session to come and discuss that book with the author who wrote the book but also the audience and we have done about four sessions The first one was Mwakenya with Maina wa Kenyatta who came to the library with a student who read the book mwakenya, the Kenyan revolution and they had a good dialogue. And the other one was Mukami Kimathi by Alice Nderitu. She came, just a young lady who was not even gone to University in terms of literature, but she was able to come and discuss the book with the author. Now once you discuss the book that way, the library becomes not only a space for books, but becomes a cultural space as well.

Leonida Mutuku  20:12 

That's really interesting. [audience claps] So probably before I continue with my questions, any questions from the audience?

Sidney Ochieng  20:25 

Hi, my name is Sidney Ochieng, I am the CTO at Intelipro and a data scientist. So a couple of questions. You mentioned that, you know, researchers tend to be very busy to give out output. However, I have to ask does the only output of research have to be a paper? Right? There are so many other ways and I think we need to think about that. As much as these are commercial spaces, this is where the people are. So like on Twitter, on Facebook, podcasts, whatever it needs to be. Because for example, like the discussions you were having, if they were recorded that would be very interesting to listen to. That was just one of the things I think we need to think about as researchers is that even as you go about your research, and my friends who are doing PhDs know this. I'm constantly asking them to write up blog posts. I know it's difficult, but you're constantly writing, so put out your thoughts. And that will keep us interested in your research, because PhDs tend to take between four and forever. [all laugh] And so, as you're doing your research, if you keep putting out stuff, then people get interested. And then I'd like to very heavily disagree with the statement that society is not interested in research. We are interested, it's just the way it's presented. Who's going to read technical jargon, right? [audience murmers agreement] Nobody. Right now we're having --to give you two examples of popular research such [inaudible] Day and Dee and Kamwe who put out every week, economic arguments in a way that is fairly readable. And they've been doing this for forever. The people may disagree with them, but they read them. And this is how you keep the interest going. Unfortunately, we are all over -- I went to school in Maseno and events like this, we were always hearing about them in Nairobi, and thought Nairobi universities were always, you know, benefiting from them. So, what, after this forum, how do we disseminate let's say what we've learned here. There are blogs, and so on. So I'd really like to push back on that and also ask everybody to think about the ways you disseminate your research.

Leonida Mutuku  22:52 

Any comments on that? 

Leah Komen  22:53 

Okay. I'll speak on the dissemination bit. It's true. Publication is not the only output. If you come with an intervention, you want to try it out and make it work. So there is an output that comes as a result of you doing that research. Again, it depends on the nature of research. But we have interventions, we have those publications, we have open forum, just like this, where you actually give back -- and that's another thing also -- we have researchers doing the research and when they finish they publish and the people they collected the data from have no clue what became. Of course, that's also cheating, and being unfair to the people. It's unethical, so to speak. But you can imagine, there are other avenues that we can actually use to disseminate. I agree with you, it's not just the publication, there are other things that we can disseminate. And so the floor is open. The social media has opened this even more. Imagine if I just see the two minutes or whatever video. And I send this out, in fact, you get immediate feedback because people are  responding, there'll be those who are battering you, there are those who are liking you, but who cares, you are getting the feedback nevertheless, somebody has listened to it. So there are other avenues. I think the rigidity must stop so that we begin to see there is this open space all of a sudden, how may we plug into it? So yes, there are many ways.

Njuki Githethwa  24:18 

and of course, just to chip in a little bit.  I think to me I agree with you, academic PhDs that we do is completely boring stuff. In terms of when you go to University as an activist and you're doing a PhD like what I'm doing also, you're told you must write as an academic you must leave the activist mind huko nje [Swahili: "there outside"]. [audience laughs] Now write academic conferences, talks, research, you must, so what you produce is complete is academic. And you will find a lot of documents in universities, powerful documents that no one reads. Right now we are grappling in this country, how do we bring stories of heroes and sheroes in this country. They are not able to write. They're not even able to write their stories. We are saying that writing doesn't have to end in research, a paper, a document, even podcasts, videos, we must be able to put that and this is not what we are doing in the country, even conferences like these ones. Once we produce a report, it's a very structured repor: introduction, what what, which very few will read. I am thinking that one of the things that we will be able to, is not only to decolonize knowledge, but to decolonize the kind of writing that we do, make it digestible to common people in the streets, make it lively. Bring stories, bring graphics, bring photographs, I think is how we should engage with what we call liberation art.

Wangari Joyce  25:56 

Yeah, I concurr with all the voices in this room and especially when you talked of so called informal avenues like blogs. If you go to my website;, you will see a paper I actually published on social media use of the deaf in business in Nairobi. And I remember one professor asking me, so you just wrote a paper on how people use social media. And you know, as a postgraduate student, I can tell you, if I'm coming to town, and there are planned protest, I probably see it on social media before anywhere else. So I think I also exist to, Eider Africa also exists to create centering of the voices that have been peripheral for so long. So why do we think that there are some ways of knowing that are more important than others? For example, in academia, there's an elevation of quantitative over qualitative and now we can see a gradual shift is happening, it's actually happening. That subjective knowledge, experiential knowledge is also knowledge. So there's a need to keep decolonizing our practices, not in dogmatic ways or racialized terms, but just bringing every voice to the table, in every decision making space, you know, respecting, and accommodating each other.

John Ambani  27:18 

I think I also need to have a take on that, I think we need to -- okay let me begin by saying I'm actually happy with the word decolonizing. Because I'm really into that. Even my heart is about that. Decolonize these things. And I want to just say that this distinction between literate and illiterate for me appears to be a colonial legacy. I think all Africans were literate. The African society had a way of making sure everyone had the information they required for their existence. But with the introduction of the new ways, westernization and capitalism and all that. We found that there are others who then are "literate" - who can speak English I mean, I'm using that in quotes - and those who cannot. Those who go to school and those who cannot. And so the business of knowledge became a  pre-occupation of those who went to school. So if you didn't go to school, like you're saying, if you were in Maseno, huko [Swahili: over there], you have no knowledge, because knowledge is in Nairobi where the University of Nairobi was and that apartheid continues. And I think that is a major concern that we must deal with. How do we break this apartheid so that everyone has the relevant information like African societies did? Part of it, I think could be through dissemination like is already coming out, active dissemination that is acceptable to the ordinary person. That's understandable by the ordinary mwananchi [Swahili:  citizen]. I think that would be very important if we can take our information out there in accessible ways, but that is only with regard to dissemination. I still believe that research is rigorous and is an art, a skill, a science. And like any other technical skills, it takes about 10 years to master it. And it won't be for everyone. I think the real, real real research, even those who didn't go to university, if they want to do research then they're going to have to spend time in it. And it has its own methods that we can't cheat. And I think that's where it becomes boring. And I think we have no shortcut to that. I think so. I also needed to just respond to the quick question you said about society. And the fact that they love knowledge, we're not giving it to them. I am a constitutional lawyer, for example, I can tell you that I've given lectures on the constitution and put on my YouTube channel. Go and check the views. [audience laughs] My own students have not seen them. But I've just checked that Diamond has probably 20 million views on some of his latest songs. Just write John Ambani, constitutional law. Just type on YouTube and you'll see. And I'm sure it'll be very boring for you, I'm sure. It'll not be as colorful as Diamond singing something on YouTube. And that's the generation we're dealing with,  I'm a teacher and I can tell you for free, the generation we're dealing with has that kind of interest. You must do a lot of work in psychology to reorient their mind, to recalibrate it so that they can get interested in research. The other problem has been the long tradition of an educational system that focuses on memorizing, memorizing notes. So everyone here has just memorized. It takes a lot to get that person into a thinker that seeks knowledge for the sake of it, and I think that would be a major challenge that we're dealing with, even as we disseminate freely. So you could do your three minute clip, but trust me, no one will look at it. Trust me there will be more interesting things, by socialite influencers that people want to look at than your things, so I think we need to do a lot of work, from primary school, from the churches and from the media, to just get people getting interested in knowledge for the sake of it. Otherwise, we're getting nothing out of it. That'll be my, my take on that.

Rhoda  31:11 

Okay, my names are Rhoda, I work with the National Museums of Kenya. I think he's like reading my mind. To me, research is I can say research is for everyone. It's only that we don't get encouraged from the word go. We don't get what these researchers are researching. We only hear that they are researching such and such a thing. But we wonder like are there guidelines like when you when you are researching, who is the research meant for after you research? Is it supposed to go back to this person you researched about? How is it helping this particular person? And when we encourage even the young generation from the word go even from school, school going children, they'll understand from the word go because there are children who have very big ambitions even from primary school you ask them - What would you would you like to be - and they are like I want to be a researcher. And then they don't understand, they have no mentors, who can tell them how to be a researcher. What it means to be a researcher, what you can research about because there are so many research areas somebody can engage in, but you find we have no mentors, we have no people to encourage the students. We only believe that research is for the people who have gone to the university those who are taking a postdoctoral degrees and people even in undergraduate studies they cannot do a research as such. Even if we are talking of a very active population with the youths. These people want to be engaged they want to get involved in this kind of research. Let us make research very interactive. Let us make it not to be as boring as we think research is boring. Research is not boring. It depends on what you are researching about, so I think it is only a matter of changing the way we've been doing our research, opening up and making it as interactive as possible so that a lot of people understand what is it all about. And I'm telling you, people will appreciate research, because they'll be able to read, they'll be able to access whatever you have researched about, they'll be able to appreciate it and also take that line of research.

Muchiri Nyaggah  33:33 

Thank you. My name is Muchiri Nyaggah. I am with the Local Development Research Institute. So like the word implies, we do a little bit of that research stuff. I think for me, two things I just want to chip in on. One; consumability. The edibleness of research outputs. You know, you've done this fantastic piece of work, it's taken you a long, long time, especially if you're in the people who've worked on their PhD for almost forever. Don't worry, Angie, I'm sure you're one of the ones who are in the under four year bracket. Then these outputs -- that was that was very probably in terms of your career formative -- can go on to define you going forward. I think the challenge that we face is, you know, how do you take these bits of really well, sound rigorous work into the public space in a way that can be consumed. There are, for me, I think, two lessons that we can learn from. One, some brother called the blog brothers, John and Hank Green. I don't know if any of you guys have come across them. These guys have a huge presence on YouTube. But John Green is a famous author he wrote, he wrote a book that I'm sure becomes a chick flick somewhere, Hank Green does some, a lot of videos with PBS. Explaining quite frankly, concepts that are for the average person too technical. But they break it down in a way that really makes it consumable. On their blog they tackle current affairs, they tackle scientific research, you get it. So I think that's one way that we can do that, we can learn from people who are doing things in a completely different space. But the second reason is because of that. These guys are from different backgrounds. Hank is an entertainer; John is a writer. They're both entertainers really for the most part. Interdisciplinary collaboration is what I'm coming to. That when we work in cocoons and we don't reach out to people who are not from our tribe, we are the ones who lose out. I don't know if many of you remember the Mavultures campaign in the early parts of the 2000s, we woke up one morning and there was this graffiti on the streets of Nairobi. And I had photos of people who were huddled around this, having huge debates about, you know, this, we are being eaten alive kind of narrative. The people who were working on this were the activists, you know, doing this piece of work, but they were the communicators who said how do we get people around this issue and really get upset. So I think we need to think about more deliberate interdisciplinary collaborations in our universities, so that we don't just get our lawyers together, but we also get them sitting around with the techies and the cosmetic science people.

Leonida Mutuku  36:44 

So I want us to really park the issue of how to disseminate research because that's actually coming in the next panel. How do like how do we put it out there, but coming up a bit upstream to the actual research work being done. So there was a huge story in the newspapers a couple of weeks ago about how our researchers are actually doing theses for, you know, PhD students abroad. And and then there's, on the other hand, the criticism and I guess here's where I might go against what was said in this panel, that our local institutions are not actually putting out that much research and not conducting that much research. So how do we, you know, meet these tensions? How do we encourage like actual, you know, how do we support our students to do more research? And here's where I'm thinking about, like, the structures you've set up as libraries, because you're saying they Google a lot, and they go back, you know, they use that to write reports, but research that's already been done and as librarians, how are you availing that data for new research to be to be used?

Wangari Joyce  37:58 

Right. So at Eider Africa, we have two monthly forums for researchers of all fields to meet and just talk about where they are at with their research. This really helps them to generate creative, innovative, out of the box original ideas. Now, when it comes to students of different fields, we did a little qualitative study that showed that there's lots of hierarchies still in academia, and this might impede you know, people coming together, multidisciplinary collaborations, but aside from research, production and dissemination, there is use nowadays, all the Google Suite package. For example, you can have a link disseminating videos. In a program I invented called study smart, we have a monthly zoom training. And then we disseminate a 30 minute webinar on various topics such as procrastination. Really simple really starting from where the students are, grassroots approach, you know, getting them to share information with each other on how to improve, for example, critical thinking, reading, writing, those are skills that we assume that every student has but actually doesn't. Yeah, so then we have a whatsapp group. Whatsapp groups have become very active nowadays. And then, using that, students can begin, you know, to refresh their thinking on research and actually start archiving a lot of local sources. Now, one of the challenges we found with for, for instance, a lot of work that's being done with grassroot organizations like NGOs is that they might have have a lot of good work, but not so much that is actually you can fight, you know, on a piece of paper. And some websites actually come down after a while, some websites or some NGOs, you know, you cited something and then it's no longer there, you know. So those challenges exist but students just coming together and creating some sort of traffic amongst them has been one way to start just archiving and getting, they also tell me they start feeling valuable as people who have something to say, you know, which has been the opposite of the past where they feel like they've been at the bottom of a hierarchy and that everybody tells them your places over there. So there's been a shift.

John Ambani  40:47 

For me, I think, I don't believe that for you to be a researcher then you have to be a philosopher. Curious Plato talked about the dog, that it barks at people it doesn't know, because it lacks knowledge of them. So it hates the fact that it doesn't know them, that's why it's barking. So you want students to be like that dog - to love knowledge and to be annoyed when they don't have it. And that's the beginning point of research when they begin to seek knowledge. And I think that's what I tend to do. How then do you do that? I think it has to be about consciousness raising. In their conscience, let them get interested in pursuing knowledge. And because I'm mostly interested in African governance issues, I find that for example, if you raise the problems of Africa in a conscious way, they begin to identify with the challenges we're facing because they are real: poverty, poor infrastructure, corruption, human rights violations of profound proportions. When they can begin to identify with them and it's easier from their own to begin thinking about solutions and researching them. So I have found therefore that the way out of this conundrum is to do. I think research is a verb, its a doing word isn't it? Which is to do, debates, doing actual research, and you just have to do it, I don't think there's a shortcut to that. And then so the forums we have outside class for example, debating forums, where you debate real issues affecting society are quite key. Publications like the journals I mentioned, where students get interested in them. And as I even say, I'm conscious that we must get out of the certificate mentality. We always want the paper and all of us, even those doing PhDs here probably want papers, possibly don't need it. I'm not annoying you, even I have one and probably I need it because society wants the paper. It's not so much because I want the knowledge and we need to get our people outside that mentality. So that it is knowledge for the sake of it, and we are pursuing knowledge for community. I think if we achieve that, then even dissemination will be sorted because once we are doing it for public service, for society, then I think we're able to do it is better, able to be motivated and to meet the other end of dissemination because then we work harder to make sure we get to our audience. I think those are the kind of things I think about when it comes to research.

Leah Komen  43:26 

I think just to pull what they are saying and bring in my own, I think the key question is, why do we research? Okay, if we are researching to get knowledge, knowledge for what? And I think when we get to that point, the moment we realize we are doing research, not for the grade, not so that we can be promoted, but we are contributing to something whether it's a solution, remodeling of something, that's a better view of why research. Than it is that we want to promote and get these papers out. And at Daystar what we tried to do in terms of encouraging research is: one, we encourage students to collaborate. They can do collaborative study with their faculty or their tutors. And then amongst themselves, the multidisciplinary thing is also key. So we try to collaborate and do that, so that we can encourage the juniors, you know, it's like holding each other's hand, this is how we do it. Then they walk that path. We also work closely with the library, because with the library and their mandates, of course, the issue of the curation of data, how do they receive it managing meta data and what have you. I think that also helps the students. They have sessions where they come to classrooms, and speak to students on how to go about research, how to access databases, what are free for them, what is out there for them, what is it that they need, so that if they need something that the library doesn't have, there is a mechanism for them to write to the library and say they need this but it's not available here. And so just that educating the Daystar community as it were, on how to use the data - the research data - and improve the utility of what is already out there. And I think just to finish my thought, if you read most of the researchers that have been produced, there's usually, this little section that says areas of further research and it becomes just like, you know, when you finish the research, but actually if you pick the areas of other research, that's a key. There's a gap here, now pick up, that's the next baton, run with it. But we stop there. And so we encourage our students, whether we are having a postgraduate meeting, to also be key in the gaps. What is that thing that has been pointed by this research that needs to be carried on? They can now jump in, of course that helps in terms of avoiding duplication and enlarging the mind so that they can do other things. So and the archiving thing. I was just thinking, even in this room, if I asked you the first item you had when you were a toddler, and whether it was still in safe custody. It is not there, isn't it? Whether it was your toy car that you created if you came from a village like my own or something else. It is not there, because the value of archiving and keeping treasure things is not in us. And so we need to work hard to remember that even as we want to get archiving as a value, which it is a value, I think we need to address the larger cultural setback so to speak, that we begin to treasure items for what they are, what they represent, legacy, posterity and stuff like that. Thank you.

Njuki Githethwa 46:46 

Thank you very much, I think to end, just some few words. I believe myself in terms of universities and academic institute of higher learning, I think there's four things which I found critical and the first thing is in terms of knowledge is to interprate and do research on existing knowledge and expand it. That's the second one expand that knowledge to comprehension. But on the third one is really deconstructing knowledge. I like new terrains of thought that are being done by universities and researchers. There must be people to construct knowledge. I think the problem to me which is central is activate is activate that knowledge for practical things that are happening within communities. If you are trapped in interpretation, expansion, and deconstruction then they would be terrible in terms of activating that knowledge. Of course the fifth one, which I think we dealt with heavily here is archiving. Of all work, there must be archiving. Now the tragedy of our universities and particularly in Africa, maybe elsewhere also, is lack of public funding to research.

Leah Komen  47:56 


Njuki Githethwa 47:56 

Completely. We lack a census which is autonomous and independent to be able to do better knowledge. We are always beholden to donors - UN, UNEP, World Bank, donor funding organizations here Ford foundations - and donor funding they have got their own politics. So if you write and you consult for these organizations, you will get into their politics, into their world view, into their outlook. You will do better in terms of interpreting and expanding that knowledge but constructing it, you will not be able to do that. So, I think public funding of our research is a nightmare. And it's not happening very well. You go all over in many universities, we have become consultants. We consult a lot actually in terms of even teaching which some do very little. Because we want to consult to these agencies and universities have become spaces for consulting. But the fourth one which I think is where I finish is knowledge as activism. That you take your knowledge and take it to places like Ukombozi, Mathare and elsewhere and see how these knowledge is now reacting to common people and how these knowledge will be interpreted by common people. And if you remember, and here's where I end, when Ngugi wa Thiongo was detained in 1977, he was a professor of literature in Nairobi University here. But there was this theater they had in Kamiritho, Kamiritho's People's Theater. And when they did a play called Ngahika Ndenda, I will marry who I want, when they did that, the orders for his detention are presumed to have generated from the Attorney General chambers, I think it was Charles Njonjo. And Charles Njonjo went to Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, this was quoted in his book called "Going Detained" right and freedom diary. And he asked, Mzee we understand this person's and these people are doing great work in terms of theater. But what do you think then is this Professor in the university doing with these people? What does he do? There must be something very dangerous happening in this country if this professor is going to stay with those people all those time. There must be something dangerous. So knowledge becomes dangerous when the academics, activate their knowledge, within grassroot communities. Thank you.

Leonida Mutuku  50:30 

Thank you. I think that was a very fascinating panel. And thank you for all the great work you're doing with the next generation of scholars. I think we unfortunately have run out of time, we're trying to catch up so that we finish on time. But I hope you'll be around so that they can grab you and ask you more questions at tea break. Yeah, so we'll just go to tea break for 10 minutes. Thank you. [audience claps]


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Contributed date

January 10, 2020 - 5:18pm

Critical Commentary

AO: This is a transcript of the first panel's discussion at the event entitled "Archiving Kenya’s Past and Futures: Stewardship and Care of Research Data". The panel sought to tackle questions of higher education and pedagogy regarding research data work in Nairobi. Where are emerging researchers currently being trained on research and archiving? How are the topics of maintenance and stewardship being taught? Who is doing such work within the research institutions themselves? What are the opportunities and challenges?

The initial transcript was done using and then the transcript was cleaned and edited by Trevas Matathia. I (AO) did a final round of editing. Video footage of the proceedings can be found here.


Quotidian Data



Cite as

Quotidian Data, "Transcript: Panel 1 at Archiving Kenya's Past and Futures", contributed by Angela Okune, Research Data Share, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 10 January 2020, accessed 21 April 2024.