The ongoing reforms in most public universities are not only timely, but critical in a sector that has attracted and sustained criticism from public and education experts.
The institutions of higher learning have, in recent years, suffered negative publicity due to serious systemic weaknesses that have left them nearly crippled.
From misuse of funds to failure to pay taxes and/or remit statutory deductions, inability to pay lecturers on time and to duplication of courses, missing marks, questionable degrees and many other ills, the universities have abdicated their duty of creation and dissemination of knowledge.
Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha, himself a former vice-chancellor, has admitted that most of the institutions are being run in a kamikaze style that leaves millions of students wasted and billions of public funds stolen or misused.
And true to his pragmatic leadership style, he has ordered the universities to clean themselves up of risk being shut down.
It is, therefore, refreshing to see institutions taking the cue with the biggest and oldest of them all, the University of Nairobi, leading the way.
The UoN has indicated that it will scrap 40 courses it deems irrelevant, with Moi University following suit just last week by announcing that it is doing away with about 30 programmes.
This is, certainly, the way to go for a sector in which thousands of students have placed their hopes in their struggle to gain appropriate skills that will give them access to well-paying jobs or enable them to form start-ups that will open the doors to meaningful and healthy lives full of promise and opportunities.
Thousands of academic and non-academic employees also depend on the institutions for their daily bread.
And the government has anchored its development programmes on their ability to produce well-grounded graduates, who can drive manufacturing, food security, health, shelter and modern infrastructure.
To achieve these noble expectations, the universities must, like Caesar’s wife, be beyond reproach.
They must be citadels of professionalism and high standards and in robust financial health to inspire public confidence in their products and lead the country to great economic achievement.
The Commission for University Education (CUE), the sector’s regulator, must assume a central role in the reforms and adopt a take-no-prisoners’ management style to ensure the institutions are whipped and toe the line.
However, as necessary as the reforms are, they must not be punitive, especially to the lecturers who teach the courses that are on the chopping board.
They should be given opportunities in areas where their specialities, experience and talent are tenable. All in all, the reforms must be driven to a logical conclusion.
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