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Politicians might not step at Kenyatta University don wants them to keep off students

By Agnes Aineah | June 15th 2017

Kenyatta University has steadily scaled infrastructural and academic heights, thanks to the Olive Mugenda-led team in which he served as the DVC in charge of Administration.

Now KU’s Acting VC, Prof Wainaina says he not only has enough arsenal to maintain the existing standards at the university but to also ensure the institution produces internationally recognised academic staff. Prof Wainaina has over 30 years of teaching and research experience and holds a Doctor of Philosophy from Alberta.

How has Kenyatta University managed to retain her steady progress over since inception?

Our secret lays in identifying what we want to do after which we identify who we partner with to get things rolling.

The core business of our university is teaching, research and community work. It is our focus on research, however, that put us on top all these years, where we identify top scholars and facilitate their research endeavours by putting resources they need at their disposal.

Our staff are funded to go out and present their papers after which they come back and share the proceeds of the papers at their departments.

How else do you motivate your academic staff to do more research?
Universities have to understand that research isn’t of any use unless it is made visible to the public. Here at KU, we help researchers publish their work in reference journals by availing to them the resources they need.

They are also usually appreciated with a little token. Those who come up with original research work, for instance, are awarded Sh10, 000. Additionally, during our graduation ceremony, the researchers of the year at KU are fated.

The industry has blamed domestic universities for producing half-baked candidates. What is your message to the industry in enhancing employability of the youth?
I will start by advising universities not to start programs without first consulting the industry concerning the ever changing needs and trends. Even then, the notion of universities producing half-baked candidates isn’t entirely true.

There are few situations in younger universities that face acute shortage of qualified staff where students at times feel shortchanged. Otherwise, the innovative minds of Kenyan graduates is undebatable.

We at KU, for instance, have several programmes such as the SWIP (Student Work Induction Programme), Chandaria Business Incubation Center and may others that sharpen students’ skills and provide them with useful links to future employers. So, as universities play their role in offering practical hands-on knowledge and skills training to their students, the industry and private sector should establish meaningful links for these students especially the time they join them on their industrial attachment.

What are some of the problems that Kenyatta University grapples with at the moment?
Most of the challenges here cut across all universities in Kenya. There has been rapid expansion of higher learning, from seven to 36 public universities, which is not commensurate with the rate of top notch training of academic staff.

This has highly compromised the quality of education in universities. Secondly, the government capitation to universities is not just very little but it also does not come in good time.

The change in the Kenya Education system is also certainly going to affect the curriculum in universities in an effort to align the new structure.

The growing numbers of students also presents a challenge to universities due to lack of accommodation. At Kenyatta University for instance, I watch with bitterness as students who miss accommodation in school are forced to seek alternative accommodation elsewhere where they are subjected to conditions that are unfit for students.

University students have been blamed for aligning themselves on tribal lines in campus politics. What is Kenyatta University doing to ensure that the institution produces graduates who embrace national integration?

Sometimes we ask too much from these students when we expect them to reflect a different image of the same society they come from.

At KU, we, however, reinforce this integration by organising students into small integration groups where they are made to understand the negative force of divisive politics. We also examine objectives of tribal groups in the institution and collapse those without a positive agenda.

We ensure that the student leadership is all-inclusive on tribal basis. We, however, still grapple with the challenge of politicians who infiltrate student politics and spread divisive politics.

What plans do you have for the university?

We want to sustain the high level type of scholarship, teaching and outreach. When you are at the top, you face the bigger challenge of retaining the position and we want to reinforce the idea that you can’t have a university of our caliber without focusing on research.

We have teaching laboratories here but we want to establish research laboratories that will help members of staff to do basic and applied research to help the government access facts in its findings.

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