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University education risks going to the dogs

Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i has frozen establishment of university satellite campuses. In addition, he has directed that loan approvals for public universities be halted till further ado.

To justify his decision, Dr Matiang’i pointed out that the rapid spread of university satellite campuses has shifted the focus of university administrators from quality of education to quantity.

To further buttress his argument, the CS reasoned that universities have been acquiring huge loans and subsequently injecting the same in the establishment of satellite campuses. Anyone who has closely monitored developments in university education will agree that this move is not only good, but timely too.

This move must be hailed because it has come in the wake of rows pitting the Commission for University Education (CUE) against a number of universities whose infrastructural capacities to offer certain courses in satellite campuses had been questioned by CUE.

Matiang’i’s directive has therefore exonerated CUE from blame over closure of a number of satellite campuses after they failed to meet the threshold required for them to run. This aside, the CS has also confirmed the concern that has been brewing for some time now - that university education risks going to the dogs as authorities look the other way. Imposing a ceiling on establishment of satellite university campuses will restore sanity in university education. It will certainly kill the joke that has lately been doing rounds, which likens universities to primary schools because of the high rate at which they have been sprouting in rural Kenya.

And when normalcy returns and quality becomes a priority for our universities as it ought to be, we will have killed many birds with one stone.

The menace of half–baked graduates will be no more, and this will in turn boost employers’ confidence in our university graduates. At the same time, it makes it easy for universities to play their significant role in the promotion of nationalism by pooling students from across the nation. This will be a complete departure from the current trend where satellite campuses draw students from their immediate catchment areas and leave them in the hands of lecturers from the locality, some of whom unfortunately, have been accused of being academically unqualified to teach at university level.

But to realise substantial returns from what the CS has initiated, a lot more needs to be done. The Government needs to increase university funding so as to satiate their thirst for an extra shilling.

It is at the altar of such thirst that quality university education has been sacrificed. Universities also need to venture into other income generating ventures to supplement what the Government provides.

Above all, accountability in so far us expenditure in universities is concerned must be realised. Allegations of fund misappropriations can neither be wished away nor ignored.

The CS has turned out to be the fresh breath that our education sector badly needed, and that is why he needs support in his endeavour to change the fortunes of this crucial sector. In this regard, university students must appreciate radical measures as these are for their own good.

They should not assume that all is well when indeed; it is them, their parents and society at large that gets the thick end of the stick when quality is compromised.

Meanwhile, Matiang’i must not tire. He must not fear because it is for his laudable contributions in the education sector that future generations will remember him.

Let us remain vigilant in regard to quality and standards in our education sector because today, unlike at independence, education is the backbone of our economy.