Protests as ministry officials call off varsity managers’ conference

Universities managers are a disappointed lot following the cancellation of an international meeting that was to start yesterday.

The First International Annual Conference was to run for three days in Mombasa under the theme ‘Sustainable Universities for National Transformation.”

All public and private universities were required to send senior staff as delegates to the meeting comprising a vice-chancellor, chancellor and principals of constituent colleges.

Ministry of Education senior staff, international speakers and staff from ministries had also been invited to the meeting. Organisers of the conference said the venue had been secured and necessary expenditures incurred.

VCs who spoke also said they had bought air tickets, reserved hotel rooms and some had even travelled to the coastal city. However, a few hours before the start of the meeting, a memo from the ministry cancelled the meeting.

“We regret to inform you that the above-mentioned conference has been deferred due to unavoidable circumstances. New dates for the conference will be communicated in due time. We regret any inconvenience caused,” reads the memo by Simon Nabukwesi, University Education PS.

It was not immediately clear why the meeting was called off. However, inside sources revealed to The Standard that a consultative meeting between Education CS George Magoha and Nabukwesi on Tuesday resolved to cancel the meeting.

Nabukwesi said that the cancellation was due to “unavoidable circumstances beyond us”.

Among the key topics that had been lined up for discussion was a reflection on the transformation of education and the impact of universities in Kenya.

Under this theme, issues of governance and the law, education mandate, human resource management and sustainable financing of public universities were to be discussed.

Key speakers were Prof Chacha Nyagotti, chairperson, Commission for University Education, Prof Fatuma Chege, Principal Secretary, CBC implementation, Dr Julius Muia, the National Treasury PS, Prof Mwangi Maringa, Infrastructure PS and Jerome Ochieng, ICT PS.

Plenary discussions were to be graced by Vice Chancellors’ Committee members Kenyatta University, Egerton, Meru, Moi University, Principal – Bomet University College and chairperson, Rongo University.

Secretaries of CUE, Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) and Kenya Association of Manufacturers, Federation of Kenya Employers were also on the programme.

VCs who spoke on Wednesday expressed disappointment in the last-minute cancellation of the meeting that would have discussed troubles faced by higher education in Kenya.

“We are not happy with the development because this was a major meeting that should have interrogated critical sector issues,” said one of the VCs from a top university.

Details of the programme outlined six conference objectives. The meeting was to establish the roles of stakeholders in transformational public university education and also develop aspirations and shared visions in the areas of governance, legislation and other regulations that can support public university education to ensure efficiency.

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