With a week to the Meru University of Science and Technology's (MUST) 11th graduation ceremony, controversy has rocked the institution after Vice Chancellor Romanus Odhiambo was sent packing.
The University Council chaired by Prof Bosire Mwebi in a letter dated February 27, 2023, and addressed to Prof Odhiambo and copied to Education Cabinet Secretary and Principal Secretary for Higher Education and Research, sacked Prof Odhiambo, who has been at the helm since July 2018, citing underperformance.
In a decision that elicited a strong response from Odhiambo, the council said it had evaluated Odhiambo's performance and decided not to renew his contract. "The University Council in its meeting held on February 27, evaluated your performance and found it to be below expectations. Therefore, the council declined to renew your contract as requested in your letter dated December 20, 2022," wrote Prof Mwebi.
"You are not authorised to transact on any capital project in the University but restrict your transactions only to personal emoluments and recurrent expenditure. You are required to proceed on your pending leave of 121 days once a suitable replacement has been identified".
Following hot on the heels of the council's letter was an internal memo from acting VC Charity Gichuki.
"The VC Prof Romanus Odhiambo is on his annual leave. During this period, the University Council has appointed Deputy VC Administration, Finance and Planning Prof Charity Gichuki, to stand in as the acting VC," said the memo signed by Gichuki.
But Prof Odhiambo cited local politics for his troubles and disputed the accusations of underperforming, saying he had worked to grow the student population and launch new facilities at the varsity that had grown its status.
"Our performance should be assessed based on the statutes, based on University Senate, based on performance contracts, being a public institution," he said, rubbishing the council decree.
"This thing is from the politicians. You have heard them talk about it. Our politicians are destroying the institutions because of their parochial, vested interests. It is wrong."
He said he had been evaluated three times and his average score was 89.
"We are having a graduation on the 11th, and now I am being told to go out. The students that I have taken care of are going to graduate, and the happiness of a professor, of a VC, is to see these young graduates coming out and you signing their certificates. Who will sign their certificates?" he posed.
He said the certificate should be signed by the substantive chair of the Senate. He said he increased student numbers from about 4,500 students to almost 11,000.