The dusty Lodwar town in Turkana County is set to get its first public university.
The National Assembly Education Committee slashed Sh260 million from the development budgets of some six public universities to allow the establishment of Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST), Turkana Campus.
The Sabina Chege-led committee chopped off Sh50 million on the budgets for Egerton University, Moi University, Maseno University, Kisii University, Technical University of Kenya and Technical University of Mombasa to give the region its first public university since independence.
Local leaders and residents who spoke to The Standard on Sunday termed the decision by the committee ‘solid enough to unlock the education potential’ of the semi-arid region.
State Department for University Education PS Colletta Suda yesterday said the government was committed to increasing access to university education across the country.
“We are also very excited about this project because the region will be opened up once admissions take place. MUSST leadership is working on this round thec lock. We support it and we will deliver,” said Prof Suda.
The don further said the MMUST constituent college in Turkana is among seven university colleges the government has singled out to increase access to education.
“Bomet, Tom Mboya, Alupe, Mama Ngina, Koitalel Samoie and Kaimosu university colleges are the other six. Of these, Tom Mboya and Kaimosi have already been gazzetted and received students,” the PS said
Excitement is spreading fast in the region following news that it will host a university.
Kneeling down facing the yellow sunset and with her arms wide open in prayer, Jackline Akiru, says: “Thank you Lord for the great gift. It had been a dream for many generations but for our children it will now be a reality.”
She said university education had previously been a preserve of only a few in the region.
“We can count how many children have been to university. Many parents also feared sending their children away in search of education fearing they may never return,” said the mother of three.
She is optimistic that her child, who is in Standard Eight, will work hard and enroll in the university.
And with the expected expanded slots in public universities, residents say their children will now stand a chance to pursue careers of their choice.
Residents have proposed that courses in petroleum, health, education, fisheries industry, livestock and civil engineering, conflict resolution and peace building, be introduced at the institution.
Davis Wafula, a lecturer at Kibabii University, said the facility would build human resource capacity in various fields.
He said the university will also foster regional integration as students from neighbouring Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia are expected to enroll for courses.
Turkana County Director of Education Nelson Sifuna said the institution will open up the region and improve infrastructure. “The facility will promote education standards and also help address a teacher shortage,” said Sifuna.
Mr John Lokol, a resident of Kanamkemer location in Lodwar, said access to education will spur development in the region.