Fake certificates speak volumes about our values

Friday, April 19th, 2024 03:30 | By
Graduation caps.
Graduation caps. PHOTO/Pexels

The nation is seized with the conversation about fake certificates. It is indeed the age of fakes. Across social media, it is now full-time engagement separating the fake from the factual. Fake has become an industry.

It is not that fake news is a new phenomenon. For centuries, newspapers have specialised in sometimes peddling fake news. This is the genesis of yellow journalism. While that remains a concern in the media, in Kenya, there is now the issue of fake certificates.

Academic qualifications hold a significant place in our country. Kenya was fortunate to have a head start in establishing schools by missionaries and academic publishing houses by the colonial administrations and, later, the African government. This paved the way for the educational trajectory that our nation adopted.

The independent government committed a substantial portion of the national budget to education, which was designed to provide human resources for the new administration. So, from the start, the country focused on certificates as the pathway to employment in the civil service.

However, perhaps the biggest challenge contributing to the issue of fake certificates is Kenyan values. At the core of presenting fake certificates is the misrepresentation of oneself – claiming to be what one is not.

The debate around Kenyan values often ends inconclusively. What are Kenyan values? Some have argued that Kenyans value hard work, industriousness, creativity, and a can-do mindset.

But is this really all that Kenyans value? If Kenyans are given an option of hard work and industriousness, among others, would they go for hard work, or would they choose an alternative where the alternative here would be an easy path?

That easy path may be theft, which essentially is what misrepresentation, or the use of fake certificates, is all about.

In the recent past, there have been cases of individuals who have presented themselves as lawyers while, in fact, they are not. That is daring indeed. However, fiction works have cases of people who seek to pass for doctors when they are not. Real life is often an imitation of fiction. Some of these misrepresentations may have been driven by make-believe movies featuring characters who have misrepresented themselves.

However, using fake certificates for misrepresentation is not confined to seeking jobs. Some are driven by self-actualisation, where individuals who may be considered successful seek to crown their success with a higher qualification, such as a doctorate degree.

The political class has been brilliant at this. But it is not just politicians; probably the other class of people prone to titles is preachers. The two share this with village medicine men, some infamous for curing all ailments, including illnesses with no known cure.

So, how does the country cure this? The President has ordered that those in the civil service be stripped of their positions and asked to refund all the money they have earned using these fake certificates. Fair enough. But the challenge is not limited to those in the civil service—what about those in the private sector?

We have to change our values and calculate the value of honesty at the national level. This may involve preaching, where religious institutions may have a contribution to make. However, in our case, religious institutions are not exempt in this matter.

Formal institutions that can contribute to this include the family and the school system. Whether families, as currently structured in Kenya, will contribute significantly is another issue. Some of the greed that drives the use of fake representation is at the family level.

Honesty can be built into the school curriculum and made a lifelong learning experience. The more important institution would be law enforcement. The legal structures would serve a deterrence function. Social institutions could also shun fakery so that it serves as a deterrence, too.

The presentation of fake certificates should not be celebrated, should not be rewarded and in fact should be shunned. When this is widely practiced then may be we could have a dent on the spread fake representation.

—The writer is the Dean, School of Communication, Daystar University

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