Storm at Moi University far from over as students, UASU welcome Ayiro

Before the dramatic storming of Moi University by some North Rift politicians on Tuesday, tension had been simmering at the institution over a myriad of issues.

Discontent among staff, protests by students, allegations of financial mismanagement and intrigues surrounding the retirement of the long-serving Vice Chancellor Richard Mibey have dogged the university for most of the year.

Prof Mibey served a maximum 10 years from 2006 after taking over from Prof David Some, the current Chief Executive Officer of the Commission for University Education (CUE).

Members of the University Academic Staff Union (UASU) say the row over appointment of an acting vice chancellor could just be a tip of the iceberg.

Seven senior managers are currently on suspension after they were accused of misappropriating funds and irregularly hiring staff. The university council was scheduled to decide the fate of some of the suspended managers two weeks ago, but the meeting did not take place.

In May, the university announced that Mibey was proceeding on leave, pending the end of his tenure in September and College of Health Sciences Principal Fabian Esamai was appointed to take charge on an acting capacity.

Returned to helm

But in a dramatic turn of events, the council announced Mibey had returned to the helm of the institution only three weeks after he had proceeded on terminal leave. The communication in a one-paragraph letter did not explain the reasons for the about-turn.

Mibey’s sudden return in June triggered demonstrations by members of UASU and coincided with a go-slow by lecturers who were pressing the management to address their grievances.

UASU has been accusing the management of illegally withholding monthly pension deductions and arrears amounting to over Sh290 million.

The union has also been questioning the use of funds raised through the privately-sponsored students programme and wants the funds to be used to run the university and settle all pending payments.

UASU Moi University Chapter Secretary Jack Abok  said most of the union’s members have been blacklisted by financial institutions as loan defaulters, while others have been blacklisted by the Credit Reference Bureau (CRB) because the deductions made on their payslips by the university are not dispatched to the creditors and insurance policy providers.

“Senior staff at Moi University owe the pension scheme provider more than Sh360 million and junior staffs’ unpaid remittances are more than Sh500 million. This is insensitive because privately-sponsored students are the greatest income generators,” he said.

The institution’s School of Law was also nearly shut in September last year because it had not conformed to statutory standards   and was given one year to comply or risk closure. Students have also been protesting  because they do not have enough lecturers.

But while handing over to Prof Laban Ayiro on Wednesday, Prof Mibey enumerated the progress he made during his tenure. He cited the ongoing construction of a library at the School of Law,  and hostels at the main campus.  Mibey noted that the university had developed an integrated digital payroll and personnel system and established the Digital Literacy Programme across primary schools in the country.

“It has been exciting and challenging at the same time to serve in this position and I am grateful the government trusted me to be a VC here for 10 years. When I came, there were 5,454 privately-sponsored students, but now the number is over 25,000,” said Mibey.

While accepting the position, Ayiro said he was  determined to deliver quality leadership in the three months he would be acting as VC.

Ayiro’s appointment has been supported by UASU and students, despite protests by politicians from the region.

“We welcome the appointment of Prof Ayiro as the VC and we will support him. External interference from politicians is not welcome,” said Ngetich Towett, the students’ organisation president.