One time, Dr. Ann Sang, the then Chair of the Department of Accounting and Finance in the School of Business and Economics Management, and my Organizational Behavior unit lecturer, gave my class an assignment asking us to write about the artifacts found within Dedan Kimathi University of Technology. I liked that assignment mostly because it was fun to do but also because it made me think deeply about the effect of what I look at everyday and how it impacts my way of thinking and behaving. I took to my assignment and to begin with, I wrote about the name of our University (Dedan Kimathi University of Technology – DeKUT), the busts of the late Dedan Kimathi Wachiuri and Nelson Mandela that are in front of the University’s Resource Centre, the Freedom Hall, the Heroes Garden that hosts, among other things, the Shrine of Sr. Irene Stephanie Nyaatha and a stone plaque inscribed with the words “I Am an African” – from the speech made by H.E. Thabo Mbeki on behalf of the African National Congress in Cape Town on 8th May, 1996 – on the occasion of the passing of the new Constitution of South Africa. I wrote about how I think the names given to these places, buildings and artifacts define us as the community of Dedan Kimathi University of Technology.

As a freshman in DeKUT, you will hear about The Freedom Hall, and think, “which freedom”? Well, I think it’s a gesture to celebrate our freedom fighters. And as a young Kenyan, that reminds you what it took for you to live in the country you do now; a country where you can freely go to class, receive an education and become a productive member of the society – if you choose to; and you definitely should. When you first see the busts of Dedan Kimathi Wachiuri and Nelson Mandela, you take a selfie, and while you do, you think about the work they put into Africa. How they drew strength from each other in fighting for the freedom of their countries. It reminds you that when their names are mentioned all over the world, people think of sacrifice, service, love. When you tell your friends on Facebook about the name of your University, it is about a great man who lost his life for our great country.

Sr. Irene Nyaatha was a Catholic Nun who lived many years ago;Nyaatha, literally means ‘One with Mercy’ and she was given that name because of the mercy she extended to others. Her slogan was, “All for Jesus, Nothing for Me”. When you listen to stories of her life and what she did in her community, you are intrigued. You start thinking about what you can do for your community. Having a shrine in her honor at the Heroes Garden gives one a chance to reflect on their life through her eyes; which again goes back to sacrifice, service and love. Everything at the Heroes Garden gives one a chance and challenge to follow in the footsteps of the heroes that have lived before us. As one sits with friends for a group discussion, they can talk about how these different heroes inspire them. You might even share a snack under the trees enjoying the cool fresh air cascading from the slopes of Mt. Kenya and as you leave the garden, you see a plaque with the words ‘I Am an African’. This reminds you that you are a child of this continent, and you should do everything to give back good things to it. The words get you asking yourself, what am I doing as an African for Africa?

That might have been just a class assignment but writing this is evidence of the opportunity the assignment gave me to reflect. I think that when a young African is subjected to this kind of visuals for the better part of their three, four or five years in DeKUT, it does something to their spirit and thinking. As they leave DeKUT, they have an inspiration to want to make those African Heroes proud. Chances are, one goes out to their community with the drive to serve and inspire. The career they choose to pursue is not about a paycheck but a tool and avenue to be and influence the change they wish to see in the world.

That to me is great formation.

By Winnie Njeri Muthoni
DeKUT Alumna & Staff, Directorate of Gender, Disability & Equity Affairs.