Save the dying universities, Magoha pleads with Ruto

Education CS George Magoha has challenged the working party to be bold enough in the recommendations they submit about the university sector.

Magoha said the team led by Raphael Munavu should be able to advise President William Ruto effectively after six months.

He spoke on Wednesday during the launch of the induction of the 49- member working party in Karen.

The team was appointed to submit recommendations to spearhead a review of the education sector.

“Since the president is somebody who listens and is also an academic, use your intellectual power, the university sector is the sick child in the room,” Magoha said.

In his manifesto, Ruto committed to having one university in every county.

But Magoha challenged the pledge saying that might reduce the quality of institutions that are already in existence.

“If you go to the oxfords of this world, a single university has 38 colleges across the country,” he said.

“Why are we having three, or four universities in a township and then you make it worse by creating other branches in other townships?”

Magoha challenged the taskforce chairperson Munavu to advise Ruto the right way because this pledge could be costly.

“It’s good for me to say so because you (Munavu) are a university person but I don’t know whether you are bold enough,” he said.

Magoha said the challenges facing the university sector emanate from reduced attention directed toward it.

The outgoing CS said 85 per cent of attention is given to the basic education sector.

This he says leaves universities and TVETs grappling with the remaining 15 per cent.

“That has allowed all Kamau and Onyangos to become experts in university matters. People who don’t know anything about the university,” he said.

Magoha also cited political interference in the projects being run by the universities, saying this has killed the institutions.

He chided the crowd saying that currently there is only one university in Kenya that is UoN, while others are ‘almost’.

“Do we then pull down the UoN and Moi to another level to be the same as Kanyanyaini University where I come from? Universities are dying because they are underfunded and thoroughly fragmented,” Magoha said.

The Munavu-led team was charged with working on recommendations across the education sector.

In the university sector, Magoha said the task force should ensure it deals with experts.

“Look at universities without prejudice, remove the politician, remove the fake expert because you cannot be an expert if you don’t belong to the university system,” he said.

Ruto asked the Munavu team to review legislation in the institutions of higher learning.

This includes technical and vocational training institutions and universities.

“Review and recommend legislation to facilitate the amalgamation of HELB, TVET, and University Funding Boards, with a view of harmonising and merging all tertiary education funding entities,” the notice reads.

He also directed that the task force recommends criteria to implement an open university in Kenya.

“To recommend a framework of operationalising the National Open University of Kenya and a framework on Open, Distance and E-line learning,” the notice reads.

This comes even after Higher Education Loans Board CEO Charles Ringera urged the new government to invest in public universities.

Ringera said this will be a solution to the institutions instead of having new ones and that the pledge to have technical universities in every region might be costly.

He was speaking during a conference with vice-chancellors in Mombasa in September.

Ringera suggested that the Ruto-led government should invest in the three available institutions instead of setting up others.

“Why are we opening more universities yet the ones we have are not fully occupied,” he said.

The plan to have an open university was among Ruto’s key pledges during the campaign period.

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