10-year varsity's growth as pioneer Kisii University VC retires

Former Kisii University Vice Chancellor Prof John Akama. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

Prof John Akama's reign at Kisii University has finally ended after serving as Vice Chancellor of the institution for a decade.

The former VC, who retired from the University on June 9, now says he is preparing to give back to society following the experience acquired during his career as an academician.

"I am engaged in research and supervising at least four PhD students. I will keep empowering our youth," says Prof Akama.

"What we established in 10 years are market-driven programmes. I am someone who believes that I have established a strong foundation in Kenya and Africa," adds the professor of geography.

Born in 1959 in Kericho and brought up in Nyamira county, the author behind the book "A Rural Boy's Journey to the Pinnacle of Academia", Prof Akama is taken back to January 5, 2009, when he took over the helm of the Constituency College.

The government began the journey to elevate the then Kisii Primary Teachers Training College to a university in 2009.

With a population of 314 students and the clamour to have more universities under the Narc government, the TTC was placed under Egerton University as a constituent college.

Here, the first group of students were forced into learning from makeshift lecture halls, while others were forced to take their science practical classes from the nearby Gusii Institute of Science and Technology, now Kisii National Polytechnic.

"We began to offer two-degree programmes; Bachelor of Commerce and Information Science and Technology. There were no systems, no teaching staff. Work was cut for me. We needed a lot of planning, strategic thinking and involvement of the government and other stakeholders," says Prof Akama.

The University's first council and management envisioned how the institution would undertake research and innovation to solve various social, economic, political and technological issues in Kenya.

Kisii University. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

Within two years and based on the University's strategic and physical plan, the management was able to put up an ultra-modern library, set up the first phase of the six-storey modern ICT centre, and build ten science laboratories, hostels and lecture halls. The library has a sitting capacity of 1,000 students.

"There was a big gap between the academic programmes. We began developing our curriculum by hiring more academic staff. We moved from two academic programmes to 35 in 2010," says Prof Akama.

By 2012, the University had enrolled more than 3,000 students up from the initial 314. Within two years, the first Council and the management had put-up policies and projects.

On February 6, 2013, retired President Mwai Kibaki (now late), visited the institution and issued the University Charter. Prof Akama was then appointed as the first Kisii University Vice-Chancellor.

By 2016, the university had expanded its programmes from 35 to 200, as well as additional faculties, schools and infrastructure.

The university began admitting 5,000 students every academic year, raising the population to 23,000 and 350 academic staff. It is within the 10 years that the university was accredited to offer a Degree in Medicine and Surgery and a Degree in Law.

"We developed a curriculum that enables us to offer degrees in Pharmacy, Laboratory Technology, Clinical Medicine and Nursing. We have graduated the best Law students, some who have qualified for scholarships to study in foreign universities," says Prof Akama.

In 2015, Bowling Green State University and Kisii University inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to promote joint research and faculty and student exchanges.

Prof Akama retired from the university having successfully negotiated for the establishment of a 1,000-bed capacity multibillion Health Hub in Kisii.

"This will be a transformative project for the people of Western Kenya and Kenya in general. My wish is that political leaders from the Guisii region put aside their differences, unite and ensure that the project is implemented as it needs political goodwill," he says.

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