Leaders want Meru University VC out as riots dent tenure

Meru University Vice Chancellor Prof. Japhet Kithinji Magambo, educates students from the institution on how to handle a tree seedling before being planted on the main field. [Photo/ Peter Muthomi/Standard]
The management of the Meru University of Science and Technology (MUST) is in a spot following the killing of Evans Njoroge, the students’ union secretary general.

This came after weeks of demonstrations to force Vice Chancellor Japheth Magambo to step aside.

He was appointed in 2013 and his first term is coming to a close.

But even more worrying is that the university has been rocked by protests at least four times this academic year.

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Last year in August, the institution was closed after students went on the rampage to protest over poor infrastructure.

Not well funded

Barely three weeks after reopening in January, students were sent home following protests over increase in tuition fees by Sh8500.

Meru leaders and the university management had agreed to send home the VC after the launch of a report commissioned by the university chancellor James Mwangi on what was hindering growth.

The study undertaken by a team led by political strategist Prof Peter Kagwanja had recommended a change of management.

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According to the findings of the two-year study, the VC had zero engagement with students, yet they were the most important stakeholders in the university.

Some locals such as former president’s advisor on Education and former Tigania West MP Dr Kilemi Mwiria have been more direct in calling for the resignation of Prof Magambo.

Dr Mwiria said engineering courses offered by the institution are not recognised by professional bodies yet technology is its specialty.

He also claimed that the mismanagement at the institution has driven away conventional donors who could have funded multi-million projects such as the stalled engineering complex.

“The audit had found that junior officers related to top management disregard instructions from even a Deputy Vice Chancellor,” he said.

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Magambo admitted that the university had not conformed to the ethnic diversity requirement for staff but claimed it was difficult to attract staff to a rural setting.

The VC believes that challenges affecting the university have been misunderstood and students are being incited to riot even after they were sent home last month.

He maintained that there were no grounds compelling enough for him to quit, arguing that he has done well in running the university which, despite offering science and technology, is not well-funded.

But South Imenti MP Kathuri Murungi said: “It is the manager or chief executive officer that makes the company thrive or go under.”

Former Tigania West MP David Kariithi claimed that a 2016 agreement between the university management and Meru leaders that a new VC be appointed when Magambo’s first term ends is what is causing trouble at the university.

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“It is clear Prof Magambo has outlived his usefulness and is not wanted by most stakeholders and must pack up and go,” Kariithi said.

Given a charter alongside other former university colleges at the end of former President Kibaki’s tenure in 2013, the university has struggled to keep up with the growth of its peers like Chuka, Dedan Kimathi, Karatina, Maasai Mara, Pwani and Kisii.

“I am a keen subscriber to John Maxwell’s theory which says that everything rises and falls with leadership,” said Prof Kobia Ataya, a Meru leader who is the chairman of the Karatina University Council.

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