The image we have of lecturers in our public universities is one of old, haggard and grouchy professors hell bent on making our lives harder at Uni. But that image is rapidly changing as more young professionals join faculty.
At only 25 years, Kilemi Mwenda exudes both confidence and calmness as he teaches students – some way older than him – at the University of Nairobi, School of Journalism (SoJ).
So how exactly did Mwenda become a lecturer in the biggest university in Kenya?
Born in October 1986, Mwenda grew up in Garden estate along Thika road and schooled at Thika road primary school before moving to Germany in 1998 with his mother.
He enrolled at the Bonn International School for his high school education. He proceeded to Pardu University for his undergraduate where he studied Political Science before joining Columbia University for his masters in Journalism and media studies.
Mwenda eventually came back to Kenya in 2009 where he applied for a job at the School of Journalism as a production and script writing lecturer. He was 22 by then and the youngest lecturer in East Africa.
“I don’t believe in failure,” he says, as he swivels his chair.
This is a philosophy that he lives by and which he upholds strongly. This has led to him to perform his duties with excellence.
Mwenda cites a few benefits for holding his position at such a young age. First, the fact that he is employed is something to celebrate.
“Many youths in our country are unemployed,” he states.
He also gets to enjoy a few luxury perks including a BMW 5 series and an Apple Mac book pro. But his joy comes from teaching and interacting with students.
“Plus teaching is not demanding compared to other careers,” he adds.
His job, just like any other, never misses its set of challenges. Being looked down upon and not being taken seriously is something that he grapples most of the time.
He particularly remembers his first class after landing his job. Coincidentally, he shared a surname with the lecturer he replaced. It took quite some time to convince his students that he was not the previous lecturer’s son.
He also has to deal with the high level of attention he is accorded by the female gender. Mwenda used to award a phone to his best performing student every semester but later stopped after consecutively awarding female students.
“I was accused of giving them special attention,” he confesses.
Mwenda also admits of being mistaken as a student. However, what people don’t know about him is that he’s quite shy but tries very hard to hide it.
According to Kevin, a student at the SoJ, Mwenda is brilliant and his teaching style is very different from other lecturers.
“He blends very well with the class,” says Kevin.
Another student notes that Mwenda is strict but fair while a colleague described him as “someone who is dedicated to his work but keeps to himself.”
Mwenda admits to getting bored easily and is never afraid of starting new things. This explains his five year plan to start his own news organization and also finish his doctorate.