The challenge of the girl child begins at birth, University of Eldoret VC Professor Teresa Akenga : Evewoman - The Standard
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The challenge of the girl child begins at birth, University of Eldoret VC Professor Teresa Akenga

Professor Teresa Akenga the first Vice Chancellor of the University of Eldoret

Having risen to become one among the few Women Vice Chancellors in public universities and the first for the University of Eldoret, Professor Teresa Akenga, 54, observes that women are sometimes too cautious and afraid of men’s reactions about their choices, and thus limit themselves from taking influential positions across the socio-economic sphere.

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 The don who has a PhD in Chemistry speaks about her motivation to pursue science courses, challenges of women in leadership, and her dream for the university.

What was your motivation and ambition growing up?

I excelled in sciences in school and was privileged that my father encouraged me to focus on science courses that many girls didn’t like. Despite enrolling for an undergraduate mathematics course I still retained my passion for Chemistry.

You are the first Vice Chancellor of UoE since it got its charter in 2013. What have you done for the institution so far?

Our biggest challenges was limited infrastructure and few staff. We have since erected a new modern library, school of education complex, engineering workshop, lecture theatres and are establishing the economics studies complex with a greater plan of establishing a comprehensive science block.

We are finalising on a perimeter fence to monitor access and secure our assets. We have also invested in a video surveillance system and high floodlights to help curb petty crime that was common before. We rarely have blackouts like before after our move to offer an acre of land to Kenya Power to establish a sub-station. Importantly, our overall student population has nearly doubled from 10,000 then to the present 18,000; we have established the town campus that hosts more than 2,000 students.

Have you resolved the problem of personnel working for many years without formal employment?

The staff welfare is key in achieving organisational goals. There were unmotivated staff referred to as casuals that have been on contract for more than 15 years. We employed 320 of them on a permanent and pensionable basis working cordially with the Ministry of Education and the National Treasury.

Most universities and tertiary institutions are not putting much focus on research and innovation, what is UoE doing to reverse this trend?

This is a challenge to many universities and we are working hard to reinvigorate research and innovation. The management agreed that we allocate a percentage of our total allocation to the recently established Directorate of Research and Innovation that oversees activities in this area. Last year we allocated Sh15 million research funds to the directorate to support young innovators who had approved proposals to actualise their research. 20 benefited from this seed money. We also support professors to do research through university collaborations and signed agreements with international organisations and act as their guarantors.

 Innovations like rust-resistant wheat variety Eldo Baraka, Eldo-Mavuno and the Mticalculator Android Application have all been done here. We are establishing a fish hatchery with the help of the Uasin Gishu County government to help raise affordable fingerlings for farmers; they gave Sh10 million while we invested Sh6 million in the project.

Are universities a multiplying zone for negative ethnicity?

That cannot be entirely true because universities admit students from across the country. We encourage — even when we advertise few people from far ends apply — local human resource for employment in job grades one to four to provide social insurance for the surrounding communities. From grade six to 11 and 12 to 15, however, the picture changes because professionals are employed on merit and present a national face.

The debate of gender balance rages on. Are there special challenges for women in leadership?

The challenge of the girl child begins at birth; there is discrimination at first because for a boy child three ululations are made while the girl gets one. The society is patriarchal and men are rigid against women leadership. Representatives from countries like Nigeria, at conferences, wonder how we Kenya has several women Vice Chancellors because they do not have any.

Women are harshly judged on issues that men regularly get away with without any criticism. Women are too cautious to take worthy risks simply because they are afraid of men’s reactions. It is also a fact that they contribute to these challenges because they do not support one another. However, things are changing as more girls become educated.

What is UoE doing to resolve the shortage of accommodation facilities?

Admissions in universities have increased twofold and the shortage of hostels is a concern, initially the government had delinked itself but now there is the Private Public Partnerships (PPPs) platform funded through the National Treasury.

We are already registered under PPP and are in the process of sourcing a transaction advisor to do feasibility studies for concept hostels for 10,000 students. We have vast land and also we are engaging local land owners through Equity Bank to develop hostels.

Students ask what the relevance of a course like Biotechnology is with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) still outlawed in the country...

Biotechnology is wide and cannot be limited to GMO’s, that is just a small part of it. I encourage students to explore options like developing new disease, pest and drought-resistant crops. Regarding field trips, we strive not to strain guardians according to university policies on allowances that students get while in industrial trips.

We are also among few universities that take all their students to both field trips and industrial attachments, all factored in the reasonable Sh5,000. We have been upgrading the college fleet of buses annually having purchased two buses at first and one each in the previous two years to cater for our transport needs.

Does the University have a plan of offering a wireless internet connection network across the institution?

We have been upgrading our bandwidth gradually from 120 to 280 having automated basic systems like finance and developing the e-learning portal. There are hotspots in several schools which we will be increasing with time to serve all of us better.

 

Next week we speak to KCA University Vice Chancellor Prof Noah Midamba

about their choices, and thus limit themselves from taking influential positions across the socio-economic sphere.

 The don who has a PhD in Chemistry speaks about her motivation to pursue science courses, challenges of women in leadership, and her dream for the university.

What was your motivation and ambition growing up?

I excelled in sciences in school and was privileged that my father encouraged me to focus on science courses that many girls didn’t like. Despite enrolling for an undergraduate mathematics course I still retained my passion for Chemistry.

You are the first Vice Chancellor of UoE since it got its charter in 2013. What have you done for the institution so far?

Our biggest challenges was limited infrastructure and few staff. We have since erected a new modern library, school of education complex, engineering workshop, lecture theatres and are establishing the economics studies complex with a greater plan of establishing a comprehensive science block.

We are finalising on a perimeter fence to monitor access and secure our assets. We have also invested in a video surveillance system and high floodlights to help curb petty crime that was common before. We rarely have blackouts like before after our move to offer an acre of land to Kenya Power to establish a sub-station. Importantly, our overall student population has nearly doubled from 10,000 then to the present 18,000; we have established the town campus that hosts more than 2,000 students.

Have you resolved the problem of personnel working for many years without formal employment?

The staff welfare is key in achieving organisational goals. There were unmotivated staff referred to as casuals that have been on contract for more than 15 years. We employed 320 of them on a permanent and pensionable basis working cordially with the Ministry of Education and the National Treasury.

Most universities and tertiary institutions are not putting much focus on research and innovation, what is UoE doing to reverse this trend?

This is a challenge to many universities and we are working hard to reinvigorate research and innovation. The management agreed that we allocate a percentage of our total allocation to the recently established Directorate of Research and Innovation that oversees activities in this area. Last year we allocated Sh15 million research funds to the directorate to support young innovators who had approved proposals to actualise their research. 20 benefited from this seed money. We also support professors to do research through university collaborations and signed agreements with international organisations and act as their guarantors.

 Innovations like rust-resistant wheat variety Eldo Baraka, Eldo-Mavuno and the Mticalculator Android Application have all been done here. We are establishing a fish hatchery with the help of the Uasin Gishu County government to help raise affordable fingerlings for farmers; they gave Sh10 million while we invested Sh6 million in the project.

Are universities a multiplying zone for negative ethnicity?

That cannot be entirely true because universities admit students from across the country. We encourage — even when we advertise few people from far ends apply — local human resource for employment in job grades one to four to provide social insurance for the surrounding communities. From grade six to 11 and 12 to 15, however, the picture changes because professionals are employed on merit and present a national face.

The debate of gender balance rages on. Are there special challenges for women in leadership?

The challenge of the girl child begins at birth; there is discrimination at first because for a boy child three ululations are made while the girl gets one. The society is patriarchal and men are rigid against women leadership. Representatives from countries like Nigeria, at conferences, wonder how we Kenya has several women Vice Chancellors because they do not have any.

Women are harshly judged on issues that men regularly get away with without any criticism. Women are too cautious to take worthy risks simply because they are afraid of men’s reactions. It is also a fact that they contribute to these challenges because they do not support one another. However, things are changing as more girls become educated.

What is UoE doing to resolve the shortage of accommodation facilities?

Admissions in universities have increased twofold and the shortage of hostels is a concern, initially the government had delinked itself but now there is the Private Public Partnerships (PPPs) platform funded through the National Treasury.

We are already registered under PPP and are in the process of sourcing a transaction advisor to do feasibility studies for concept hostels for 10,000 students. We have vast land and also we are engaging local land owners through Equity Bank to develop hostels.

Students ask what the relevance of a course like Biotechnology is with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) still outlawed in the country...

Biotechnology is wide and cannot be limited to GMO’s, that is just a small part of it. I encourage students to explore options like developing new disease, pest and drought-resistant crops. Regarding field trips, we strive not to strain guardians according to university policies on allowances that students get while in industrial trips.

We are also among few universities that take all their students to both field trips and industrial attachments, all factored in the reasonable Sh5,000. We have been upgrading the college fleet of buses annually having purchased two buses at first and one each in the previous two years to cater for our transport needs.

Does the University have a plan of offering a wireless internet connection network across the institution?

We have been upgrading our bandwidth gradually from 120 to 280 having automated basic systems like finance and developing the e-learning portal. There are hotspots in several schools which we will be increasing with time to serve all of us better.

Next week we speak to KCA University Vice Chancellor Prof Noah Midamba

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