By Edwin Cheserek
A massive expansion programme by public and private universities has provided a big economic boost to counties across the country through creation of businesses and employment opportunities.
The institutions of higher learning have spent millions putting up additional campuses and hostels in various towns, and in the process creating job opportunities for communities in the neighbourhood.
The County Weekly has learnt that local constructors and suppliers have been smiling all the way to the bank as universities open their purses to meet the growing demand for higher education.
All six public and more than 10 private universities have been on an expansion move. They are either buying existing buildings in various towns or putting up their own.
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Mr Clement Bowen, a Building and Civil engineer and a contractor says local investors have remained resourceful in providing accommodation.
Rent of facilities
“The institutions are no longer ivory towers because they have to engage locals to assist them even as they finish some stalled hostel facilities,” he quips.
Learning space has also posed a challenge at the universities grounds especially in satellite institutions and for ever growing parallel programmes.
As a result, some parallel students have been forced to learn under tents.
Various universities have rented several buildings in several towns across the country to be used as classrooms and administrative offices.
“Universities are expanding satellite campuses and have to look for adequate space and staff, which means they have to rent rooms,” says Bowen.
The engineer concurs with the fact that the expansion programme in higher learning institutions has steered economic growth, as various sectors generate employment opportunities.
“The development is an impetus to local investors because real estate industry is expanding rapidly to meet the increasing demand,” he remarks.
He further points out that most business people have been forced to venture into real estate because of its sustainability across the country.
Also, entertainment spots in most towns have grown exponentially because students patronize them. Besides, transport system continues to blossom as students, lecturers and employees are ferried to various campuses.
And these expansions have attracted various challenges which continue to be a headache to various stakeholders in education sector.
Property value has gone up in a short period of time as demand always overwhelms supply of the much-needed structures.
Upon the inception of parallel degree programmes, outrage was witnessed among regular students who accused the universities of offering special treatment to the parallel group.
But according to university administrators, tension has eased due to promotion of harmonious existence between two groups.
In many programmes, as The County Weekly learnt, regular and parallel students share classrooms and other facilities. But the teaching staff and a section of students have accused the institutions of its ‘cosmetic’ expansion programmes that fail to provide necessary services including accommodation and enough classrooms. Some students who spoke on grounds of anonymity said the institutions have failed to sufficiently provide essential facilities including learning tools.
“It is not right for the university to acquire buildings for learning purposes while we train on obsolete machines,” said a student in of the public university.
Lecturers maintain that public institutions across the country deserve better funding from the government to aid their infrastructure development and other costs. They urge that uncoordinated expansion programmes and inept management of the public universities have been caused by poor vetting of top managers.
Isaac Samoei Kibet, chairman, town planning and works Eldoret municipality disclosed that building plans application stands at 200 in a month, up from 60.
He explains that the town has been an agricultural hub but has since changed to be more commercial attracting hundreds of potential investors in the real estate sector. He notes that the council only approves plans applied after developers have cleared their land rates.
Mr Samoei says,“The council charges per plan, with approval rates ranging from Sh12,000 to Sh20,000 depending on the number of units constructed.
Some areas within the town, he points out, are restricted to development as per the council’s master plan and zoning adding
“We have reserved some areas for residential, commercial and industrial to control development of the town through proper planning,” said Samoei.