University of Nairobi Dons stagnate as grandees stay put

University of Nairobi Dons stagnate as grandees stay put

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University of Nairobi students under the tutelage of the Students Welfare Authority which is responsible for their accommodation and catering services amidst the glaring mismanagement at the health services where only one ambulance serves an upwards of 80,000 students are in a sorry state.

Management of students’ welfare has been bloated with senior university officials who include the deputy vice chancellor (Students Affairs) Issac Mbeche, Fr Dominic Wamugunda who has been appointed Dean of Students assisted by a host of many assistant dean of students as well as the director SWA Jackson Maalu assisted by three deputy directors and a full-fledged finance and administration departments. All these staffs rake in millions of shillings in salaries and other allowances at the expense of the students’ welfare. A student we talked to likens the quality of accommodation at the premier university as that of a pigsty where rooms are filthy, congested and unkempt. Prof Peter Mbithi and Mbeche have used the Students Welfare Authority as a haven for corruption where the two employ staff outside the establishment. Many staff we talked to are worried that nobody seems to fathom where the premier institution is headed.

As matters get from bad to worse, sources claim that of late Prof Mbithi has rarely been seen at the University of Nairobi. It is said Mbithi only appears at the institution when he wants a photo taken of him to be put on the website to hoodwink the public that all is well with him and the institution. He has been diagnosed with depression and has been receiving treatment at his official residence through Dr MRB Otieno. Otieno is heard bragging that he is the only trusted doctor that Mbithi can disclose his ailments. However, a source at the institution says that the same Otieno reveals all that privileged information to his close friends once he has had one too many and in turn the friends spread the gospel.

However, the other top managers of the University of Nairobi in the university management board including DVCs, principals and senior administrators at the University of Nairobi are kept in the dark regarding his health status and are never informed of the whereabouts of their boss. In the meantime, as Prof Mbithi leaves the university on autopilot, he has managed to bar the newly appointed council from functioning through the court orders.

Staff confess that they cannot understand how the government can keep off the affairs of the University of Nairobi and leave one man to ruin a premier university and endanger the future of upwards of 80,000 students and the livelihood of about 6,000 staff. The staff intimated that Mbithi has made sure that none of the staff can question him and those suspected to having a differing opinion are followed even to the toilet.

Within the university premises, staffs are not allowed to talk with mobile phones and many are scared of a phone ringing anywhere in the precincts of Mbithi and his henchmen leaving the staffs with no option but to maintain their phones on silent mode at all times.

Mbithi’s top managers cannot hold conversation with each other within and outside the university premises.

A manager was overheard excusing himself hurriedly after meeting an old venerated professor friend and colleague confiding that they cannot be seen talking with other colleagues as they were being watched by Mbithi’s spies and that they might be filmed and reported.

It is sad that during the one minute of unintended encounter, the top manager in question frantically and nervously kept looking left and right to ensure all was well and that Mbithi’s spies were not in sight. Even as the top managers exhibit such unwarranted fear.  Members of the University of Nairobi management board are beyond the mandatory retirement age of 60 years for public servants since the positions they hold are administrative and not academic. They all feel cornered and are lying low as they reckon that they owe allegiance to Mbithi and the Farah-led university council for allowing them to serve beyond their retirement age.

Starting with the first level of management is the vice chancellor. Prof Mbithi is 61 years, having been born on July 4 1956. He is a full professor of veterinary science. He has not attracted not a single coin in research funds to the University of Nairobi ever since he was employed at the institution as a tutorial fellow in 1984 and has been using other colleagues (read Gitau, Mulei, Kiama) publications to climb the academic ladder.

The deputy vice chancellors, Prof Mbeche who is the DVC (Student Affairs) and also holds the docket of DVC (Administration and Finance) in an acting capacity is a full professor of Management Science. He graduated from Kenyatta University with a Bachelor of Education (Arts). He later attained a PhD in business management. Mbeche should have retired from his administrative position and gone back to his old academic job on August 22 2012 when he attained 60 years having been born on August 22 1952. One wonders what skills Mbeche has in managing his grandchildren. He is not able to discipline students just like many grandfathers out there. In one of his altercations with the students, the rowdy students splashed him with beer in his office and he had to be rushed home to change his clothes but never returned to the office. Henry Mutoro who is the DVC (Academic Affairs) was born on January 22 1950. He thus should have relinquished the position he currently holds on January 22 2010 when he attained the mandatory 60 years retirement age even as he reminded Fr Wamugunda Wakimani that his was due to retire on July 9 2016 and hence should have proceeded on his terminal leave. Mutoro is an associate professor of Archeology. Lucy Irungu, the other DVC (Research, Production and Extension) should have retired on May 13 2017 as she was allegedly born on May 13 1957. Some of her classmates who retired in 2015 after attaining the age of 60 were wondering whether she would have started her schooling at class five to enable her graduate with them from the university in 1978. Irungu is a full professor of Entomology (study of insects).The embattled substantive DVC (Administration and Finance Bernard Njoroge whose name evokes instant wrath to Mbithi would have been required to retire on  September 22 2016 as he was born on September 22 1956. However, his fate has been in limbo since his suspension in 2015 as Mbithi has made sure that the conclusion of the matter remains in court as long as it takes. Njoroge is a full professor of Civil Engineering.

The pack of principals of colleges and their deputies is led by the most senior of the grandfathers Peter Ngau. The professor of Geography who was appointed in 2015 to head the College of Architecture and Engineering.  Prof Ngau is 66 old and therefore, should not have in the first place been appointed to the position at an age of 63 years. He represents Mbithi in almost all functions that Mbithi is invited as the vice chancellor and is unable to attend leaving the DVCs gaping in shock. Ngau was born on January 1 1951. He is an associate professor of Geography now heading the prestigious college of Architecture and Engineering. Prof Ngau was appointed amid protests as he was seen as being unqualified to hold that office. He trained at Kilimambogo Teachers Training College as a P1 teacher, before joining the University of Nairobi where he pursued a Bachelor of Education  Arts and graduated in 1977.  He specialised in Geography and actually taught the subject in secondary school.

He then completed an MA in Geography in 1981. In 1989, he graduated with a PhD in Urban Geography from the University of California at Los Angeles and was employed to teach in the Department of Geography. He was administratively transferred to the Department of Urban and Regional Planning in CAE, from the Department of Geography in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. The transfer was curiously communicated to the Department of Urban and Regional Planning by an acting deputy principal. Prof Ngau had been rejected twice by his colleagues when he attempted to become the dean of the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Development. In 2002 he was trounced coming a distant third with 19 votes and stood a second time in 2004 and lost yet again. Now he is being smuggled yet again to a higher position of the college principal.

There were also questions of integrity regarding a private entity called Centre for Urban Research and Innovations that Ngau had registered to conduct private business but purported that it was a University of Nairobi outfit.  Interestingly, this unit had no bearing to the set units of the University of Nairobi. More so, Curi is registered by the said don as a private entity but conducts university business. It is so enticing that if the don likes you, he just writes for you a Curi cheque and signs it himself. He was a chairman of a department once but decided to step down to concentrate on his private enterprise Curi. Thus, he was not interested in serving the university at that level where money was not flowing. It was so enticing that, in one of the projects that UN-Habitat sponsored called Country Study on Land and Natural Resources Tenure Security in East and Southern Africa, the UN agency committed funding to the tune of USD 60,000, with the University of Nairobi providing counterpart funds worth USD 5000; the funds ended up at Curi. The principal of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Enos Njeru was born on November 20 1951 and hence should have retired on November 20 2011. He is now almost 66 years old. The professor of Anthropology is a real grandfather even in his demeanor. Njeru is deputised by Peter Kobonyo and Prof Njama. Prof Kobonyo is a full professor of management science is 65 years and should have relinquished the position on November 25 2012 as he was born on November 25 1952. The little known Jama Abdi is a professor of Development Studies and was a reward to Farah Idle as he exited the chairmanship of the ineffective council. At the helm of College of Health Sciences for the last 10 years has been  pharmacist Isaac Kibwage. He has a new job at Egerton University as the DVC (Administration and Finance). He should have retired from administration in 2014 as he was born in 1954. At the College of the Education and External Studies there is the chemist Isaac Jumba who is the principal. He should have retired on February 22 2014 as he was born on February 22 1954. He should have by now given way for Horace Ochanda who is the deputy principal to take over the college. Prof Ochanda was born in 1960. Bernard Aduda the principal of the College of Biological and Physical Sciences a physicist professor will be due for retirement in December 2018 as he was born in 1958. The principal of College of Agriculture and Veterinary Sciences Stephen Kiama was  born much later than the grandfathers. He was appointed in 2015 and he is due for retirement from the position of principal of Cavs in 2024 when he attains mandatory 60 years of retirement from the public position of principal. He is considered to be the son of the rest of the members of the management and hence his contributions in any meeting are absent not to mention that all the other grandfathers are controlled in the meetings by Mbithi.

The dons we talked to who have been waiting in the wings to fill those positions and bring in new ideas are wondering what special skill these university management board members possess to warrant that they all get contracts on these jobs. Others quipped that the special skills include running down the university through improper use of University of Nairobi funds and corrupt practices.

What scares dons most is the threat that they would be sacked and those residing in University of Nairobi premises would be thrown out of the houses.  Many subordinate staffs have no confidence with the professors who are either in the classrooms or are in top management for keeping silent watching helplessly.

There are three unions the academic staff union which caters for the welfare of the academic members of staff, the Kenya universities staff union which represents the nonacademic members of staff and the Kenya domestic hotels and allied workers union which represents the rest of staff. What is intriguing is that they are all lamenting the deplorable state of the university and how Mbithi has reduced the University of Nairobi to a shell but they are doing nothing. Why the unions that ideally should have raised the red flag and demanded accountability and transparency in the management of the university affairs have looked the other way only the officials can tell. The staff wondered time and again why the unions have kept quiet even after Mbithi has reneged on already negotiated terms of service.

Meanwhile, staffs at the premier institution continue to be impoverished as the unions keep mum. The dons divulged that the terms of service that past unions have painstakingly negotiated with the employer and finally CBAs signed Mbithi has reneged on them. The transport allowance has been reduced from about Sh21,000 to Sh18,000. The per diem allowances as per the SRC circular have been scrapped and Mbithi is paying selectively to those that he favours at the SRC rates.

The Chuna Sacco members are indebted by the University to the tune of Sh 600 million. The management of the Chuna is currently running helter skelter siphoning the remaining Chuna monies. The university health services are laughable. There are no drugs and members of staff who get sick are forced to pay for their health care without any refunds for such money being given to them. The last refunds for medical were done in 2015. The university vehicles are being grounded due to lack of spare parts, insurance and fuel. What is worrying members of staff is why are the unions behaving like they do not understand these things and are looking the other way.

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