By ordering a review of operations in Kenya’s universities, the Education Cabinet secretary is on the right track.
It’s a poorly kept secret that most of the 74 institutions have been operating in their own world with little regard for regulations, standards or quality.
In the past decade, news emanating from the universities has included course duplication, unapproved academic programmes, unqualified lecturers, missing examination marks, poor infrastructure, insecurity, financial mismanagement, tribalism and cronyism.
The consequence of that is poorly trained graduates, whom the Federation of Kenya Employers has often dismissed as half-baked, lack of innovation and research and failure to support economic growth.
As thousands of graduates roam the streets hunting for jobs, the universities have expanded with abandon enrolling more students in an endless cycle of complacency.
This is why Prof George Magoha’s call for a thorough re-examination of the state of the universities comes like a breath of fresh air in a sector that looks as if it has suffered untold neglect and left to its own devices, all at the expense of thousands of students who have anchored their hopes and dreams on the institutions.
Prof Magoha’s directive is especially poignant because he has served at the helm of the University of Nairobi, the country’s oldest, for 10 years.
He had made pointed and candid remarks about the state of most universities long before President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed him the Education Secretary.
Obviously, he does not have a silver bullet and the reforms will take time. However, at least he has promised that change is coming soon.
Universities are always at the heart of a nation’s economic development.
Indeed, Kenya’s ‘Big Four Agenda’ and the Kenya Vision 2030 are premised on the capability of universities to produce well-trained labour to act as the drivers of key development pillars.
Countries that record sustained and robust economic growth also have vibrant and top-notch universities that are sources of great ideas, cutting-edge innovations, revolutionary research and relevant skills.
Those whose universities are weak, lacklustre and dishonourable only spawn frustrations in increased joblessness, weak institutional structures and lethargic development.
Prof Magoha must go the distance and clean up the mess. But he must do all he can to protect the dreams of the thousands of students who have invested their time and energy in studies hoping for a better future and rewarding careers.
He must also protect the jobs of thousands of lecturers who have achieved their credentials in an honest and creditable manner while getting rid of those who took shortcuts to get their qualifications.
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