Universities want ministry to redeploy unqualified lecturers

Participants follow the proceedings during the first international conference for the public Universities chairpersons of Council, Vice--Chancellors and Principals of constituent colleges at Whitesands Beach Hotel in Mombasa. [Omondi Onyango,Standard]

Public universities want lecturers who have not upgraded their academic qualifications to teach degree programmes thrown out.

Academic leaders who spoke at a conference in Mombasa last week said some of their staff have deliberately refused to advance their studies to meet the required qualifications for lecturers.

They said they want these staff members redeployed to other stations by the Ministry of Education.

"Universities have staff who are unable to teach degree programmes because they have refused to upgrade their academic qualifications.

"Such staff should be redeployed by the Ministry of Education," the university managers said in a report.

At the same time, the VCs called on government to involve them in its projects to boost revenues of their universities.

They were speaking at a conference attended by chairpersons of university councils, vice-chancellors, and principals of constituent colleges, where they released a detailed report highlighting changes they want made in their profession.

In the report, the VCs urged the government not to interfere with university operations.

"Members of Parliament should write laws that can facilitate rapid deployment of university professionals by the government the same way countries such as South Korea are doing. These countries are developing at a faster rate because of such laws," stated the report.

"We want the government to recognise universities as major agents of the national transformation agenda. This has been demonstrated in other jurisdictions by other universities such as Oxford University in the United Kingdom, KAIST in Korea and University of Toronto in Canada," it read further.

Among those who attended the conference that was officially opened by University Education Principal Secretary Simon Nabukwesi were the Inter Public Universities Council Consultative Forum (IPUCCF) chairperson, Prof Geoffrey Muluvi, who is also the VC of South Eastern Kenya University.

At the same time, the academic leaders said they want deans of faculties to be appointed as opposed to the current arrangement where they are elected by lecturers.

Meanwhile, the dons asked the government to invest in mega research and repeal laws which hinder funding for research "because universities thrive on research".

"Universities are not be funded adequately. Most of them lack the necessary equipment to carry out research. No wonder even TVET institutions have better facilities than universities," the report by the university manager said.

They also took issue with the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), terming the agency an enemy of development and academic excellence because of subjecting research equipment to taxation.

"It is sad that some of the equipment KRA is taxing are those that have been donated to the universities. And because they money is not always available, some of the equipment have been abandoned at the ports of entry," the report said further.

It added: "Successive governments have also failed to recognize top researchers and this has led to despair and dampened the spirits of the upcoming ones."

The universities managers also accused ICT ministry of neglecting the institutions of higher learning such that none of them has been connected to internet as is the case with other government entities.

"Universities, as factors of transformation in the economic development, should not be lacking internet connectivity. As a matter of fact, they should be connected to the National Fiber Optic Backbone," they said.

The university managers said they will lobby political leaders to recognize the role of universities as agents of national transformation and creation of wealth.

It was also agreed that Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) should be negotiated in the first year and made time bound. "Those negotiated outside the timelines should be considered as null and void," the university managers said further in their report.

In future, the conference resolved, the government should establish structures for students' placement at the end of their training.

The managers also want the role of determining cut-off points for students being admitted in their institutions left to universities.

They also want a change of policy so that only needy students are provided with funding. This, the report said, will enable VCs to get enough funds to run their universities more more smoothly from those willing to pay fees.

Mr Nabukwesi noted that while Kenya scores highly in market sophistication, business sophistication, knowledge, and technology outputs and creative outputs, the country still lags behind in other key areas such as human capital, research and the accompanying infrastructure.

To consolidate gains made so far, Nabukwesi said Kenya needs to strongly focus on revamping her university education and setting up an independent and well-resourced research innovation and technology agency.

"Kenya also needs to continuously address international commitments which include the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA) 2024, and the African Development Agenda 2063," said Nabukwesi.

He said the large number of young people entering the job market has had major implications on both the demand and supply in the labour market.

"Universities need quality human resource as well as teaching and research infrastructure. There are, however, fewer courses in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) in the universities which should not be the case in the ever changing world of technology," said the PS.

He called on universities to address low enrollment of students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics () courses in their institutions. "I would also wish to note that some universities do not have enough qualified lecturers to teach the STEM courses. This must be relooked as we work to take our country forward."