The government has dropped a bombshell in the education sector with the announcement of radical changes that will see a merger and closure of some public universities.
Weekly Citizen has information that a bill is being drafted to be presented in parliament that will help in navigating what is now popularly known as public universities headache in corridors of power.
Initially, the government’s plan was to have 47 public universities in each county. The move seems to be a tall order to sustain and achieve going by the current happenings in the sector. To complicate matters is now the fact that private universities in the country now even admit students sponsored by the government.
Weekly Citizen has established that under the plan, 32 public universities are on the verge of being merged on the basis of the old administrative that of eight provinces across the nation. It will be set in line with the current security system where we have regional coordinators formerly provincial commissioners that are eight in total.
Multiple highly placed sources within the government gave a mild picture of how the final stage of the plan would look like after the merger. To take care of vice-chancellors of universities, word has it that they will serve full term in charge only to have their contracts not renewed. The VC positions of the said institutions will not also be advertised.
Instead, they will become constituent colleges of those that will have absorbed them with a principal appointed to manage. The idea is to avoid legal implications in case one is removed from the VC slot without having served a full term.
The reality of the plan, which is a big blow to many universities on an expansion spree, came as a result of the announcement by the National Treasury cabinet secretary Rotich during budgetary allocation reading in parliament last Thursday.
Inside sources pointed out that priority is set to be given according to the authority and superiority of the existing universities which will be expected to mother others.
For example, what was initially known as Nairobi province would be left with University of Nairobi after consuming Technical University of Kenya, Co-operative University College of Kenya and Multimedia University of Kenya?
University of Nairobi is ranked highly worldwide and is one of the oldest learning institutions in Kenya whose council chair is renowned Julia Ojiambo.
Former Nyanza province is likely to remain with Maseno University in the government envisaged plan. It will absorb Rongo University College, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology and the troubled Kisii University. All of them will serve as constituent colleges of Maseno University. Maseno came into existence before them thus a trade name in the region’s education sector.
Maseno University was founded in 1990 and is centrally located along Kisumu-Busia road, 25 km from Kisumu city.
In the meantime, a scenario is projected where what was known initially as Eastern province would remain with Machakos University. According to an insider within the government’s plan, Chuka University, Embu University College of Kenya and South Eastern Kenya University could be all brought under Machakos University.
As for the former Coast province, among the learning institutions staring a phase-out are Pwani University and Taita Taveta University College which will fold under Technical University of Mombasa.
But it could be an exceptional case in the previous Central province with indications that unlike other regions left with single universities, two universities will be considered for the region.
If the government plot goes through sooner or later, the region will boast of Kenyatta University and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. The current universities, Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, Karatina University of Science and Technology will be absorbed and administered under Jkuat as they are technical oriented just like Jkuat.
On the other side, Murang’a University College and Kirinyaga University will find themselves under the arm of the prestigious Kenyatta University.
In former Western Province, Kibabii University risk being absorbed by Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology. Kibabii was a constituent college of Mmust just like Kaimosi University College.
However, in the huge former Rift Valley province, just as it has been with administrative structures, the plan is to locate the public universities on North Rift and South Rift basis.
Moi University would be left in North Rift after crushing Eldoret and Kabianga University while on the other wing in South Rift, Egerton University will carry the day following plans to do away with Maasai Mara and Laikipia universities.
Moi University is the second oldest university in Kenya with its main campus located in Eldoret and Egerton on the other hand is ranked one of the oldest learning institutions in the country and a premier agricultural university in Kenya.
North Eastern region is fighting a complex scenario which may see it lose its only higher learning institution, Garissa University, on what has been classified on as insecurity grounds.
For starters, the infamous terror attack on the university on April 2 2015 that left 148 people dead and several maimed could be used to shut down the learning institution.
Education stakeholders, parents, staff, students and security agencies have been fighting bad memories occasioned by the ugly dawn incident when gun-wielding attackers stormed the campus precincts and shot at students indiscriminately killing many and holding some hostage. Only last week, 13 police officers were said to have been killed in the region.
The planned restructuring comes hot on the heels after the government closed down nearly one-third of public university campuses due to failure to meet accreditation requirements.
According to the Economic Survey 2019 released by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the rapid expansion of universities had seen 81 campuses opened between 2014 and 2017 to stand at 168 but 57 were shut down after they became casualties of tough exam management rules.
While presenting a Sh3.2 trillion for the financial year starting July, National Treasury CS Rotich noted that the plan to reduce the number of 32 public universities was aimed at addressing the headache of shrinking numbers of students.
Rotich in his budget set aside a whooping Sh97.7 billion to support university education and Sh12.6 billion for the Higher Education Loans Board.
In the past, the universities have been unable to pay Sh9 billion in statutory deductions and another Sh9 billion in pensions.
As a result staff has been denied medical services and also being blacklisted by financial institutions for not repaying loans.
Implementation of the plan to merger universities is poised to be a major achievement for the new Education cabinet secretary George Magoha who has been championing for the same direction since he took over from Amina Mohammed.
Magoha had prophesied that it was only through the merger of the universities that could ensure full potential on the academic front.
“If possible, existing universities and campuses can be consolidated for maximum utilisation,” Prof Magoha pointed out when he opened a two-day conference on Kenya’s Higher Education in Nairobi attended by top university managers.
Keen observers are, however, quick to project a harsh scenario for crook vice chancellors at the universities earmarked for closures as the move would mean the end of their dirty deals apart from sliding them into financial and social darkness.
Take for example, the case of Kisii University VC John Akama, whose love for money and politics is said to be unrivalled at the expense of education.
Other VCs staring at hard times ahead are VC Rongo university Samuel Gudu, VC Co-operative University Kamau Ngamau, VC Kabiang’a University Wilson Kipngeno, VC Eldoret University Teresa Akenga and their Laikipia counterpart Joseph Kibet.
Also staring at uncertain future are VC Maasai Mara University Mary Walingo, VC Pwani Mohamed Rajab, VC Chuka Erastus Njoka and Kibabii VC Isaac Odeo.
Coincidentally, a host of universities earmarked for phase out have been known for tainted past perpetrated under the watch of the VCs and a classic point is the recent shocking report by the Auditor General that detected disappearance of millions of shillings at the respective universities.
At the Multimedia University, Edward Ouko led commission uncovered unapproved expenditure amounting to Sh11,822,952 in a dubious deal executed during the purchase of computers.
According to the report, the purchase was approved at Sh13, 000,000 but some crooks calling shots at the institutions colluded and spent Sh24,822,952, almost double of the original amount.
Economic analysts are, however, reading an extension of tough times to thousands of staff in public universities who are facing job losses following the announcement to restructure higher education.
The merger will see about 27,000 staff in public universities including 9,000 lecturers rendered jobless.