Vacancies in varsity councils threaten to delay re-opening

Education CS George Magoha when he appeared before the National Assembly Education Committee on Wednesday. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Re-opening of at least 18 public universities could be delayed as they do not have councils to facilitate resumption of learning.

Another two institutions have incomplete councils while three others do not have substantive vice chancellors.

Members of the National Assembly Education Committee raised concerns over the vacancies, saying they could paralyse the smooth running of the institutions.

A document submitted to the committee on Wednesday by Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha revealed that at least 11 university councils fell vacant in March this year while the term of another nine elapsed in July and are yet to be re-constituted.

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Moi University, Egerton University, Pwani University, Technical University of Mombasa, Technical University of Kenya, Kisii University, University of Eldoret, Laikipia University, University of Kabianga, Karatina University and Taita Taveta University are some of the institutions with no councils.

Others are South Eastern Kenya University, Kibabii University, University of Embu, The Cooperative University of Kenya, Murang’a University, Kirinyaga University, Machakos University, Rongo University and Maasai Mara University.

The councils are supposed to sit and decide dates for full resumption of learning in the universities after the Ministry of Education directed that final year students in universities, teacher training colleges and vocational institutions resume classes on Monday next week.

Prevent paralysis

“The respective universities councils and the senates, boards of Teacher Training Colleges and Technical and Vocational Training colleges will announce the dates for resumption for students in other classes/academic years,” Magoha said in a statement on Tuesday.

Mogotio MP Daniel Tuitoek sought the ministry’s response on when the vacancies would be filled to prevent any paralysis in the running of the institutions.

In his response, Magoha told the MPs that he had communicated to the Government Printer to gazette the vacant positions in the universities councils. He said for vacant councils whose term elapsed in March, he forwarded the communication to the Government Printer on April 29 while for those that fell vacant in July, he forwarded communication on August 3.

“Following further consultations, all outstanding councils will be gazetted this week to facilitate plans for re-opening of universities and university colleges,” said Magoha.

The CS blamed a court case for the delay to recruit vice chancellors in three universities. There are also at least 14 vacancies in the office of deputy vice chancellors in public universities.

According to the law, recruitment of vice chancellors and their deputies is done by the Public Service Commission (PSC).

Labour and Relations Court stopped the PSC from recruiting a substantive vice chancellor for Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology after activist Okiya Omtatah claimed the process had been marred by irregularities.

The university has been without a substantive VC for the last one year following the exit of Prof Fredrick Otieno, whose term was not renewed.

Omtatah, in his submissions to the court in Nairobi, argued that the whole process was invalidated after the PSC included the institution’s council members in its interview panel.

Magoha told MPs the University Act should be amended to allow university councils to be involved in the recruitment process.

“For most of the affected universities, interested parties have obtained court orders stopping the recruitment and/or appointment while others are in the process of recruitment and/or appointment,” said the CS.

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