Scholars root for more focus on practical skills in varsities

Kisumu County Governor Anyang' Nyong'o while addressing the press at his office on February 8th 2019. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

The International Conference on Science and Technology entered its second day yesterday, with calls for more investments in vocational education.

The Conference that was opened on Tuesday is being hosted by the Oginga Odinga University for Science and Technology (JOOUST).

It brings together researchers and scholars and various experts from private and public sectors. Top on the agenda of the four-day conference is how to use research to help the country achieve sustainable development goals.

Thematic areas

"We will be having discussions under identified sub-thematic areas in agriculture, food security and nutrition, human capital development, green and blue economy, industry innovation, infrastructure and human settlement," said Oginga Odinga University Vice Chancellor Stephen Agong.

In a speech read on his behalf by county education executive committee member Obiero Ogone, Kisumu Governor Anyang' Nyong'o called on universities to focus more on teaching practical skills to their students.

The governor announced that the county was investing more in vocational training, including allocating Sh350 million this year to expansion and upgrade of the Rotary Institute into a more vibrant vocational training centre.

"In the last financial year, we spent Sh52 million on fees waiver for students in vocational training centres in Kisumu," said Prof Nyong'o.

He said the county had realised the need for more practical skills to develop and pledged support for small businesses.

"We conducted a research and found that the people who drive the domestic economy are those with practical skills such as welders, masons and hair dressers," he said.

He said with renewed interest in secondary and tertiary education, counties must work with industry, education and research institutions to expand vocation training.

Hands-on experience

"While qualifications can be gained through studies, skills come from a hands-on experience in the field and industry, where more focus should now be put," he said.

Prof Agong and medical scholar, Prof Kama Rogo called for more focus on creativity and innovation, saying such would help the country to achieve the Big Four agenda of food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and universal healthcare.

Agong challenged scholars to come up with practical solutions to inform Government policies.

"Let us give our input to help our country realise its big Four agenda," he said.

Inadequate funding

Speaker after speaker cited inadequate funding as one of the biggest impediment to research.

Isaac Okeyo of the Ministry of Agriculture conceded that the country's investment in research was still below international standards.

He said while the international standards pegged funding in research at two per cent of national budgets, Kenya's budget for research stood at 0.5 per cent.

This, he said, explained why few researchers were breaking new grounds with new inventions instead of repackaging old ideas.

The forum called for more support for universities to upscale research.

The conference, which ends tomorrow, is sponsored by the Standard Group and East African Community.

Other sponsors are the Kenya Literature Bureau, Siaya County government, Kenya Maritime Authorities and Regional Centre for Mapping.

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JOOUSTOginga Odinga UniversityInternational Conference on ScienceStephen AgongKisumu GovernorAnyang' Nyong'oVocational Training