School of Law doctoral student Muthomi Thiankolu was never going to let the coronavirus pandemic stop him from completing his PhD. On July 21, 2020, he successfully presented his defense to the Board of Examiners panel chaired by School of Law Dean, Prof. Kiarie Mwaura.
Thiankolu, an advocate of the High Court of Kenya is also a lecturer at the school of law with specific research interests in dispute resolution; public procurement regulation; constitutional and administrative law; and international economic law.
After weeks and months preparing for the most important day of his academic career, Thiankolu just logged into Google Meet to defend his research before a virtual panel of six examiners including; Prof. Albert Mumma, Prof. Elias Ayiemba, Dr.Ken Obura, Dr.Kariuki Muigua and Dr. Seth Wekesa.
“I was excited and confident.” Thiankolu said. “I knew it was the first time a student from the school of law was defending a PhD virtually but I didn’t imagine it would be any different from a face-to-face one.”
Thiankolu’s defense started at 2pm and took place at his office in Ndemi Lane, Off Ngong Road where he was guaranteed of high speed and stable internet. Although he would have loved to interact and present his defense to a physical and larger audience, he still enjoyed the experience. “I was calmly seated in my office and benefited from the comfort that comes along with it.” He said.
In his presentation, titled, “Balancing Economic and Social Objectives in Public Procurement in Kenya: A review of the Law, the Policy and the Practise.” Thiankolu defended his research on whether the regulatory framework for public procurement in Kenya facilitates the resolution of conflicts between economic and social objectives; and whether the discretion that confers on government bureaucrats creates incentives for corruption, favoritism and other forms of malfeasance.
Normally, completion of postgraduate defense presentations are marked with huge celebrations by classmates, friends and academic supervisors but that won’t be the case for Thiankolu because of the physical distance between them. “I am not holding any celebrations for now but upon graduation subject to the lifting of the COVID-19 restrictions, my parents will host a party to celebrate my achievement.” He said.
Defending his research in the midst of a pandemic is not something Thiankolu anticipated to cap off his PhD journey. But he is still relived that he was able to successfully defend his research. “The fact that we were able to seamlessly do it online shows that the University of Nairobi is adaptive to emerging challenges and realities.” He said.