VCs see future in shut campuses as Covid-19 bites
By Augustine Oduor | July 25th 2020
Universities are seeking to open campuses that were shut by the government in 2017 to create more teaching spaces ahead of the planned opening in September.
More than 200 campuses were shut following a directive by the Ministry of Education after it emerged that they were not viable.
Vice Chancellors of public universities yesterday said ensuring social distance for students in the existing institutions was a challenge.
National Association of Private Universities in Kenya (Napuk) secretary-general Vincent Gaitho said private universities are already exploring the idea.
“The original purpose for creating campuses was to take education closer to the people. Because of various economic challenges, some were not viable. But with Covid-19, the infrastructure can be used to decongest main campuses to make it easier for learning through social distancing as emphasised by the government,” said Gaitho.
In public universities, constituent colleges and campuses has been a sticky issue.
Commission for University Education (CUE) Chief Executive Officer Mwenda Ntarangwi yesterday said if a campus was shut it means it had not met the requisite standards to be operational.
“How then can it be allowed to provide learning? Even in times of the coronavirus, standards and quality are paramount,” said Ntarangwi.
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He said no law guiding university education has been suspended because of the pandemic.
“If they want to use the said campuses let them make sure they meet the set standards,” said Ntarangwi.
The Ministry of Education instructed universities and colleges to prepare for phased September opening through electronic and open distance programmes to avoid further loss of academic time.
VCs however said that to adopt blended learning – online, e-learning and distance learning programmes – they need adequate space that would also allow them to support students who are unable to access internet facilities.
Unable to access
“With those campuses open, the students from neighbouring regions can register in the nearest campus and with social distancing attend online classes,” said a VC.
The VCs said that most students may not have access to Internet and computers and university managers can make arrangements to accommodate them.
“Universities will create digital systems for students to access learning material to be downloaded by students in these campuses,” said the VC.
In a circular on July 8, University Education PS Simon Nabukwesi directed universities and colleges to start blended teaching in September.
“To mitigate the effects of Covid-19 and any other disruptions, the universities are required to enhance the resilience of education system by promoting blended and remote learning,” said Nabukwesi.
The ministry noted that social/physical distancing was critical to ensure safety and health of learners.
“Hand washing with soap and use of sanitisers, wearing masks and monitoring body temperature will be the minimum requirements for health and safety of students,” said Nabukwesi.
The PS explained that for universities and constituent colleges that will allow physical teaching to a controlled number of students, the VCs and principals must ensure safe social distancing at all times.
This means that universities have to draw plans to accommodate fewer learners that may fit in the available facilities for the practical classes in compliance with Covid-19 health protocols.
Last year, about 57 campuses were shut. Laikipia University had six campuses closed in Eldoret, Naivasha, Nakuru, Nyahururu, Embu and Upper Hill in Nairobi.
Moi University campuses in Kericho, Mombasa and Nakuru were also shut as well as Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) campuses in Westland’s (Nairobi) and Kisumu.
Cooperative University closed the campus in Meru. Others that were shut are South Eastern Kenya University Nairobi Campus, Masinde Muliro University Nairobi Campus, Egerton University Kabarnet Campus and Maseno University Homa Bay Campus.
Private universities that shut their campuses are Kenya Methodist University, Catholic University of East Africa (Kisumu and Nairobi) and University of Baraton (Eldoret and Nairobi).
Universities that do not have campuses are getting support from the county governments.
Murang’a County government has opened doors of Kenyatta Farm (Mareira Farm), a farmers training centre, to be used by Murang’a University.
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