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Public universities would collapse without State funding

Koitaleel Samoei University College, Mosoriot, in Nandi County. [Titus Too, Standard]

One of the terms of the Presidential Task Force on Education covers funding to tertiary institutions. Public universities have persistently had monumental financial woes.

These stem from low capitation, corruption and mismanagement, bloated workforces and lack of transformative leadership

Out of the myriad causes of the poor financial health of public universities, low capitation from the government sits in a pole position. Financing of public universities has been on a downward trajectory for several years now. These institutions were cushioned by money from the module two programme but things changed with the drastic reforms introduced in our examinations system in 2017 to curb cheating and other malpractices. 

Today, no public university is sitting pretty in terms of good financial health. Money owed to creditors runs into billions of shillings. Statutory deductions, pensions, bank loans and other personal deductions to various bodies have not been remitted for several years. Many of these institutions have actually been declared insolvent by the Auditor General. 

The truth is that if these institutions were private and business-like in their operations, they would actually have been closed down. Public universities are broke. It is in this context that we should welcome the presidential task force’s term of reference (2e) that covers funding of tertiary institutions.

These institutions expect a lot from the task force. Moreover, the team is made up of first layer scholars in various disciplines in the academy. Many have had or are having stints in university management while others are the cream in their areas in teaching and research. This bodes well for our public universities.

This is a golden opportunity for woes regarding low capitation to public universities to be brought to the attention of the country’s leadership by non-state honchos. Let the task force get the views of university leadership, academic and non-academic staff, students and parents or guardians on how to address financial woes in public universities. I trust that the team will also cast its net wide enough to get the views of all the other stakeholders on this issue.

Top on the recommendations should be that the exchequer ought to adequately fund public universities. Our public universities can’t stand on their own financially. Morsels from the government are their life-blood. The truth is that universities have people only with domain knowledge on teaching, research and extension.

The government, being the custodian of public universities, should fulfill its mandate by increasing capitation to the institutions. The team should equally come up with measures to address the systemic loopholes that make the canker of corruption and mismanagement to find fertile ground in public universities. Unless this problem and its concomitant, relatively poor leadership is addressed, little will come out of our public universities in terms of quality service. 

-Dr Agumba teaches at Koitaleel Samoei University College