The appointment of Dr Laban Ayiro as the acting vice-chancellor of Moi University last year brought out the worst in local leaders.
Issues such as him being an “outsider” who did not hail from the local community, despite his impeccable credentials, came up. In the end, this highlighted how nepotism and tribalism, rather than objectivity is at the centre of our daily discourse.
Universities are citadels of knowledge, the last place where pettiness should find abode. For this reason, the decision by Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i to move away from the tradition that allowed university councils to determine the appointment of vice-chancellors on the basis that they must come from the community where the institution is located, thereby encouraging mediocrity, should be lauded.
Councils, constituted after an advertised competitive hiring and vetting process and randomly posted to 22 universities across the country, represent change that is long overdue.
We believe that those in the newly constituted councils are individuals who exhibit competencies that are lacking in the cronies who were formerly appointed because they spoke the right dialect and had aligned themselves to powerful political figures.
The high level of nepotism in universities that the National Cohesion and Integration Commission has pointed out and the rate at which most universities have been run down attest to this.
Clearly, the new councils have their work cut out for them. They must prove that they are the new broom that we have all been waiting for by transforming the run-down institutions, restoring their lost glory, and placing them at a level where they can compete with the best in Africa and the world.
In the 2015 QS World University Rankings, only the University of Nairobi made it to the top 800 at position 701. With good management, Kenyan universities can compete better with the best in the world.