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Overrated Educationist Julia Ojiambo Behind Rot At Kenya Nutritionists & Dieticians Institute

CAPTION: These overrated educationists are the same characters who created the retarded 8-4-4 system. 

Hello Nyakundi and team. I’m a regular reader of your blog and like many, I appreciate the work you and your team are doing by keeping us informed with what the mainstream media dare not touch. A couple of months now I’ve been intending to contact you regarding the plight of the said professionals as I feel only a platform such as yours can adequately and accurately bring to light the issues afflicting this group.

A short background on myself is that I’m a recent nutrition graduate and I’m currently, for the lack of better words, getting railroaded by some people under the banner of KNDI. I’m however no special case as a similar and even much worse fates are being shared by my fellow graduates as well as those practising in the nutrition field in Kenya.

Here’s why (sorry if this seems too long but you’ve to understand I’m deeply invested in this matter):

KNDI stands for Kenya Nutritionists and Dieticians Institute and it’s the regulatory body for all things nutrition in Kenya. The body is fairly young and was established through the Kenya Nutritionists and Dieticians Act of 2007. Going through that ACT (it’s available online) it’s quite clear that the intentions were noble – to transform and regulate the nutrition profession in Kenya for the better. Sadly, as it’s the norm in our country, we excel at coming up with laws but leave the implementation to a bunch of short-sighted, narrow minded and most of all, greed driven individuals. KNDI is no exception as I’ve come to learn painfully.

The glaring issues which I sincerely hope you can consider to highlight to the relevant bodies and further look into are as follows:

1. Why does KNDI insist on indexing nutrition students (certificate, diploma and degree) while they’re still on their first year?

Why capture them this early yet it’s quite obvious that personal decisions and other factors (change of career, commitments, no jobs) are bound to arise within the course of this programmes? Why not just index the graduates that intend to carry on with Nutrition? Well, I think number two tell it’s all.

2. Why the high indexing fee of Ksh.10,000?

Surely, this must be the highest fee of this nature when compared to other professional bodies. How insensitive of them to think that all parents/guardians can foot this fee on top of school fees and other expenses for a college student. To make things interesting, just consider the number of nutrition students that are available for indexing yearly (now that almost all public and private universities/ colleges offer nutritional courses) and you’ll have to agree quite a large sum of money is bound to be collected.

And what are they doing with this indexing money you might ask? Well, the official version is that it caters for the “indexing package” which includes:

*Indexing card
*Training file/syllabus
*The KNDI Act
*the professional exam to be sat after completion of the internship (more on this later)

However, the situation on the ground is quite different since what you actually get (excluding the exams) is nothing that shouldn’t cost Ksh.500 if you ask me – just an indexing card and “internship material” that you get in soft copy, meaning you’ve to cater for all their printing and photocopying. As far as the KNDI Act goes, that is merely a Google search away. Concerning the exam, I don’t know why it should be paid for yet one has neither graduated from their course programme nor successfully enrolled to and completed the highly uncertain internship KNDI demands.

3. Why insist on an unpaid internship that runs for a whole long year?

This is the most painful thing yet. A whole year of unpaid internship yet they gladly took your indexing fee in the name of facilitating this same internship. Worse, they expect us to foot the expenses that are bound to arise from this internship being in that they’re the ones posting you. And where you might ask? To one of a handful of government facilities that have agreed to their “MOU”.

There were only 15 internship centres the last time I checked (2016 Dec). Twelve of this were for clinical nutrition (Level 4 and above hospitals) and the remaining three, one each for the remaining disciplines: Clinical Dietetics, Public Health Nutrition and Community Nutrition. Here’s the list that was at their offices:

Clinical Nutrition

1. Kenyatta National Referral Hospital (KNH)
2. Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital
3. Jaramogi Odinga Oginga Teaching and Referral Hospital
4. Coast Provincial General Hospital
5. Kakamega County Referral Hospital
6. Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital
7. Thika Level 5 Hospital
8. Kisumu County Referral Hospital – Level 4
9. Nyeri County Referral Hospital – Level 5
10. Kiambu Level 4 Hospital
11. Gatundu Level 4 Hospital
12. Nakuru Provincial General Hospital

Clinical Dietetics

1. Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology

Public Health Nutrition

1. Ageng’a Post Graduate Academy – Busia

Community Nutrition

1. Ageng’a Post Graduate Academy – Busia

Food Science and Nutrition

They claim to be working on this, but no postings yet as far as I know.

Food Service and Diet Therapy

No internship centres yet.

It’s quite unrealistic for KNDI to think they can post the hundreds of Nutrition students graduating each year, each for one long year, to only these 15 centres. Remember these few institutions still have to cater for attachments and volunteers who deserve this positions as well.

Take the case of clinical nutrition which is the only reasonable choice right now for most students:

KNH being the largest can take a maximum of 40 students, Thika Level 5 takes 20 and Level 4 facilities like Kiambu and Gatundu District Hospital can only accommodate 10-15 students. That’s is to mean on rough estimates, KHN can only cater for one class of nutrition degree graduates. Now, we have over 20 Public Universities and Constituent Colleges that offer nutrition degrees, and still I’m not counting the Private institutions. Now you do the math of how many graduates will have to miss this internship, yearly.

To the lucky few that get a slot, things are far from being rosy on their end too. A whole one year of unpaid internship stings really hard, more so when you take a look across the other camp and realize other medical interns (Doctors, Nurses, Pharmacists…) are getting paid. What’s more, the Public Service Commission in its Internship Policy and Guidelines, stipulates that interns working in public service organizations and who are holders of Bachelor’s degrees from recognized universities are to receive a stipend/allowance.

So why are nutrition interns an exception? Don’t they work just as hard. They report at work at 8 am just like other employees, pay for their own lunch and transport every day and dutifully (though exceptions are to be expected) share in the workload. On top of this, most have no choice to relocate to where the facilities are located (as far as Busia) and that means rent, electricity, water, food and everything else that comes with having a house. Surely, should they slave and suffer their already strained parents/guardians this much. Wasn’t college enough with the rampant shortage of hostels coupled with the bloated fees (for Modules 2/Private).

As I speak right now there are plenty of graduates that missed the one and only intake in the whole year that took place last month (January 2017). To this add a backlog from previous years and what you get are dejected nutrition graduates sited at home with no hope of getting a nutrition-related job now that KNDI has infiltrated the job market and made sure that every job adverts reads at the bottom: “Must be KNDI registered”. Suffice to say, many have long since given up on a Nutrition career. For the few that are left we can safely conclude it’s those merely those running on “passion”.

4. Why insist on old graduates doing the internship?

KNDI in all its wisdom decided that all nutrition students that had not graduated before 1st January 2014 were to get indexed and do the internship. Graduation season is usually at the end of the year, so those that hadn’t graduated by this time (Class of 2014 and above) were subject to this new rule. This is despite the fact that KNDI had introduced a completely new syllabus that most universities had not adopted by this time yet it’s still expected those that used the old curriculum (which used to vary by institution) to be subject to the new rules including the internship. To this add the previous point of few internship slots and you can imagine the amount of students that have been affected. Absurd.

5. Why index students from institutions not fully accredited?

The coming of KNDI was initially met with a lot of ignorance and later resistance both in the training institutions and those practicing nutrition. In the former which includes almost all universities, KNDI expected them to implement the aforementioned new curriculum which just happened to be dependent on some new facilities and amenities i.e. a lot of money. With public universities this was bound to take some time as its tradition, you know with all the bureaucracy, for the money to trickle down from the government to the institution then down to the respective departments. By this time KNDI had given these institutions an Interim license (which costs money) as they sorted this issues. When it started taking too long KNDI threatened to unlicense them, and in this list of shame we had all the big names – UoN, KU, JKUAT etc. Some private institutions I presume took advantage of this and speeded up their process and got FULLY ACCREDITED while this big wigs were still stuck in the mire and their “pride” perhaps.

KNDI then threatened that students from these universities will not get internship, however that didn’t last long, after all money changes everything. So what did they do instead? They “advised” students from this “rogue institutions” to “think of their future” by facilitating the indexing process on their own (this was originally meant to be done via the institution) i.e. go to KNDI office, fill the forms and pay up pronto before one graduates. Being the grass below these two raging bulls, students were left with no option but to yield to the deadlier bull here – KNDI.

Suffice to say, most institutions are still running and cashing on the convenient Interim license (60 to be precise while only 7 have full licences i.e. according to a Star article dating back to July 2016). In a bid to get accredited (after being publicly shamed in one of the dailies), I recall some few months later my “prestigious university” taking some few actions to comply – the most dumbfounding yet is the manner in which my department “struggled”, to not construct but only refurbish one small room into a kitchen that KNDI had to inspect. Meanwhile, when our time came, we played chef inside the lab; the same lab where we ran tests on human blood and stool (yeah, we do those too). Higher learning’s finest hour indeed.

6. Why do students have to graduate from Internship and why all the way in Busia?

As I type this now, interns that just completed their exams and passed are headed all the way to Busia for a graduation ceremony. Take note of Busia (Ageng’a Post Graduate Academy), as this is the second time I’m mentioning it and it’s hardly the final time. Apparently students have to graduate from internship as if the hassle of graduating from university/college wasn’t hard enough. And as it’s the norm nowadays, this one is hardly spared of all the bloated graduations fees and penalties, as if the fare to Busia is not large enough.

Oh! Did I mention also the Diploma and Certificate students have to do all this too. Last time I checked they were paying Ksh.3000 in graduation fees while the degree holders, perhaps in a bid to make them feel somewhat special, pay an extra Khs.500 on top of this. Late submissions of the gowns attract a Ksh.500 penalty, that is, per day.

7. What is so special about Busia?

Well, I hadn’t connected the dots on this one until this week when it hit me like a freight train. You see at the helm of KNDI is one Julia Ojiambo – a nutrition scholar and seasoned politician whose name only started popping up of late thanks to her political party opening its doors to a certain disgruntled “mheshimiwa”. Politics aside, let me play journalist for a second and lay some few facts that have been conveniently waving red flags to as it seems, no one:

CAPTION: Professor Julia Ojiambo is the invisible stalwart who has been a stumbling block in efforts to align KNDI to fit today’s aspirations. 

-Julia Ojiambo is the chairperson of KNDI. She is the person that authored and sponsored the bill (KENYA NUTRITIONISTS AND DIETICIANS ACT) which was enacted in Oct. 2007 in the 9th Parliament. She was then a NARC nominated MP for Funyula constituency which is in Busia County. She hails from Funyula as well.

-The Ageng’a Post Graduate Academy, which is the only place until now where community nutrition internship is being offered, as well as doubling as the “graduation square”, is located in Ageng’a Location in Funyula constituency. Ageng’a is basically Julia’s original home place since her late parents’ home is located in Kadibworo Village which is located as you might guess, Ageng’a ward. By the way I’ve never been to Busia, I’m only connecting the dots to all these thanks to Google and some online news articles which should be within anybody’s reach if they’re industrious enough.

-Julia Ojiambo was elected the chairperson of KNDI in 2009 and 8 years later she still holds that post.

I think it’s quite clear what I’m getting at here. This is exactly what happens when self-interest overpowers reason even in the most educated of minds. I can only hope Dr.Matiang’i finds this reason enough to investigate this body. Being a political season, I’m sure some narrow minded people will label this as mere “political propaganda” in which case, being the “nutritionist” I’m not, can only advise them to eat plenty of oily fish – I heard it does wonders for narrow minds.

8. Why is a Nutritionist paying annual fees equivalent to what a Nurse pays for three years?

I’ve talked enough concerning the plight of Nutrition students but this letter wouldn’t be complete without mentioning our fellow Nutritionists and Dietitians at the work place. You see KNDI being the professional body it is, doesn’t concern itself entirely on the education part but also those already working in the field – be they public servants, private employees or those in private practice. As such KNDI expects anyone practising in Nutrition to register with them and in turn they grant them practising licenses. These licenses cost money, and in the case of individuals (excluding foreigners) one has to part with Ksh.5000 for the initial registration followed by a renewal fee of Ksh.2000 yearly which is the equivalent of what a nurse pays to the Nursing Council of Kenya (NCK) for 3 years.

Now that must seem like a modest fee but you’ve to realize that KNDI is not a union body – which is to mean it’s not there to look after the welfare of Nutritionists\Dietitians, though I stand to be corrected. The only body which I’ve come across that may be dealing with this, though I’m still unsure whether it’s a trade union or otherwise, is the relatively unknown (that is, among students) Nutrition Association of Kenya (NAK).

Back to KNDI, what exactly does this annual fee facilitate? Honestly I’ve no idea, and that’s expected since I’m no employee. Anyway, I asked a Govt. Nutritionist the other day how KNDI has helped them since it came into the fold and what I got is a resounding “nothing”. Apparently it has only taken their money in the name of licenses and penalized/fined the defaulters with some very hefty fees.

Now I’ll admit it’s a good thing in their intentions to regulate the industry as this stands to benefit both the professionals and the clients seeking their services in the long run but regardless people demand to get their money’s worth. It’s just absurd of them to think they can just take people’s money in the name of a formality without showing how this funds are benefiting them (and the industry at large). If you have your doubts, just go and take a look at the KNDI website download section and you’ll find a downloadable PDF with a long, and I mean long list of members with balances, some with upwards of Ksh. 18,000 balances. That there alone should be evidence of how most of them feel about KNDI. If only KNDI had concerned themselves with improving their welfare in one way or another, I’m sure the defaulters would be very few. But 8 years later and what do they’ve to show? Nothing, not even an election to make them feel involved.

I take it that it’s about time Nutritionists\Dietitians got off their comfort zones and did something about this and other challenges afflicting their profession – if not, I fear things will only get worse – for them and the students hoping to join them. And to you reading this, don’t underestimate the role of a nutritionist/ dietitian in your health. Our health sector sadly makes a good job of making them look very expendable and that’s why you can’t find a single nutritionist in most of our health centres; their roles left to be handled by doctors and nurses who have already have a lot on their plates, and with all due respect, are not cut out to handle nutrition matters competently. You go to the bigger hospitals and the situation is no different with the issue of understaffing. You’d think with the ever rising prevalence of lifestyle diseases/NCDs that the national and county govts. would employ more nutritionists/dietitians right down to the community level, but I’m surprised by their ignorance. Worse, bodies like KNDI don’t help and are only further worsening what’s clearly a neglected and highly misunderstood profession.

To any parent who has a child that is hoping to take the Nutrition path, I can only advise them to consider this matter carefully. At least that way, if nothing gets done, you won’t be caught off guard as some parents have this past few years. Lastly, I call on Dr.Matiang’i, who thankfully has recently turned his eye on higher education and professional bodies to look into this body called KNDI and others like it. Innocent students don’t deserve to suffer at the hands of these unreasonable bodies.

My final words are as Kenyans we seriously need to reform the education sector in our country and not just leave it to few committed people like Dr.Matiang’i. For as it seems the higher you go, the more rot one is bound to find – rot that trickles down to the base and manifests itself in symptoms such as the rampant corruption that we deal with today. Why? The higher you go up the ladder of education the more money is involved. After all, the final prize of education has been narrowed into the same and in so doing, the rungs up this ladder have seamlessly fallen apart while we watch.

Regards,
Just Another KNDI Victim


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