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State should increase varsities' funding

By The Standard | Published Thu, January 12th 2017 at 00:00, Updated January 11th 2017 at 22:32 GMT +3

The ongoing restructuring in the education sector has got many on the wrong footing. Having streamlined operations at the primary and secondary school levels, Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i has his sights trained on institutions of higher learning, mainly universities.

Dr Matiang'i has noted that there are many Kenyans acquiring degrees without following due process or having attained requisite marks necessary for entry into a degree programme. Universities have also opened too many satellite colleges that do not meet standards and some, to date, have been closed. Clearly, these are issues that need urgent attention.

However, it is inescapable that Government's scaling down of funding to universities in the 1990s was responsible for the proliferation of poorly equipped and staffed satellite colleges that have over time become a source of revenue for universities.

In the 2016-2017 Supplementary Funding estimates, universities find themselves cast between a rock and a hard place as their funding is cut down by Sh5 billion despite last year’s shortfall of Sh9 billion. Programmes that will be most affected by the budget cut include research, which is a key component of any university worth its salt. It is through research that innovation and other drivers of development are advanced.

Without research and adequate funding, local universities cannot compete internationally. Our universities have perennially been ranked on the lower rungs of the ladder yet parents invest a lot in having their children acquire the best knowledge money can buy. A call and determination to improve the quality of education offered by our universities must be matched with enhanced financing.

Specifically, there must be heavy investment in research, which appears to have been ignored. Research into the steep increase of cancers, and which can find a cure, would help cut down the cost of healthcare just as research into agriculture can identify drought-resistant crops that would help in the fight against famine.

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