The government has been urged to review its policies on higher education financing to enable universities to cope.
Speaking during the 18th graduation ceremony at Kabarak University in Nakuru, leaders and education stakeholders blamed the current financial struggles in public universities on under capitation.
Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, who was the chief guest at the event, said lack of resources was downgrading the quality and value of education.
“Many universities today are struggling to remain afloat due to poor funding from the national government. If nothing is done, we are placing our future at stake,” said Kalonzo.
The former Vice-President said the government had for long turned a blind eye to the rising costs of living while facilitating students through the Higher Educations Loans Board (Helb).
“There is a need to look at higher education with a tooth comb. Higher education is being downgraded. Helb loans extended to students should be reviewed to allow deserving learners access education without the pressure of living costs weighing them down,” he said.
Teachers’ pay rise
Kalonzo cited education as a key driver for development but termed the government’s attitude towards teachers as discouraging, especially on remuneration.
On the recent calls by the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) for a 60 per cent pay rise for teachers, Kalonzo said the tutors were justified to demand for better pay.
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He took issue with Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu’s claims that the demands by teachers were unrealistic and their Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) not renegotiable in view of the high cost of living.
“The pay our teachers get is a mockery of the investment they have made in their own education. They have a valid case when they call for negotiations and implementation of CBA but using hard-fisted approaches in times when the cost of living is beyond reach for many Kenyans will not solve the problem,” Kalonzo said.
Kabarak University Chancellor Gideon Moi said, that despite the hard economic times brought about by the Covid pandemic and drought, the institution had remained on the cutting edge of knowledge.
“Similarly inspiring is the active involvement in research, innovation, and outreach activities by the university. Your engagement with the community at the local, regional and national levels, and the collaborations and partnerships with the industry and peer institutions are commendable,” he added.
The institution, he said, had been actively involved in research and innovation in tandem with market needs and national aspirations.
“The ongoing attraction of top scholars to join the University will certainly stimulate further growth and place the university in the league of top institutions,” Gideon said.
Kabarak University Vice-Chancellor Henry Kiplagat said capitation should be reviewed to match the high living costs.
“I urge the government to increase capitation for student sponsorship. It is increasingly becoming difficult for the universities to meet the high cost of tuition at the current rate of capitation from the government,” said Prof Kiplagat.
He added that for universities to undertake meaningful research, innovation, and outreach, sufficient funding is required.
“This year, we attracted generous grants from Google/Cape Town Science Centre to support outreach activity for Scratch Programming among primary school children digital literacy programme; the Notre Dame-IBM Tech Ethics Lab to support research on ethical issues in Healthcare Machine Learning Projects; and Mustard Seed Foundation to support training on the integration of faith and learning,” he said.
Running in its 22nd year since inception, Prof Kiplagat said the institution has risen to become a centre of excellence. The school of law, he says, has been consistently emerging top in national, regional and even global moot courts.
“In March, four students from our Law School participated in the African Rounds of the Annual H. Jackson Moot Court Competition organised by the European Law Students’ Association in collaboration with the World Trade Organisation. Our Team was ranked Best Overall. One of our students was crowned the Best Oralist. Our team thus qualified to participate in the Global Final Rounds held at the World Trade Organization Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland in June,” he said.
Kabarak University Governing Council chairman John Kibosia said the roll-out of programmes relevant to the needs of the country, the establishment of Kabarak University TVET institute as well as engagements in research, publications, and innovations are indicators of significant achievements.