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Opinion: Challenges posed by increased Universities in Kenya

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An inside section of University of Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta Memorial Library

Everyone in the 21st century wants to join a university and have a degree. The growth of universities in Kenya has been enormous since the Kibaki regime as we all witness 15 university colleges and polytechnics upgraded overnight and chartered to operate as a fully-fledged universities. The change took a toll and the number of people who could enroll to university increased with a higher percentage as the cut off points year after year grow dismally.

Gone are the days when one would be celebrated as a village hero for having secured a position in one of the universities. Nowadays, going to university is like answering a call of nature. It has become a cliche making the education system vulnerable. The growth of universities I can say it has somehow been directly proportional to the increased population but inversely proportional to the number of job opportunities presented.

The upgrading of colleges to public universities to 22 by the former president Mwai Kibaki has been met with challenges despite having promoted the education system in the country. Thinkers would argue out that a university is supposed to manufacture boys to men rather in this so called digital era it has done the reverse. Being a victim of a university student the growth has had its pros and cons making the country’s economy fluctuate.

The country has come a long way to be what it is. Everyone values education but that doesn’t necessarily mean that exams should be tools seclude others. This has made many students in secondary schools to use any means to pass examinations knowing that universities are enough and life in the university is like life in heaven considering freedom is mandatory. The education system lost its meaning due to growth of many universities as everyone is struggling to get to there.

The former cabinet secretary for education Fred Matiang’i had it rough from the citizens’ as exam cheating had been rampant in 2016. Examiners being in school for four years and the teachers have been collaborating producing what they term as ‘leakage’. Everyone needs to pass and get to the university. After the results, even those who did not expect to pass wonder how they made it through uncouthly. This crowds the population in the universities. The student knows how s/he passed and continues ‘stealing’ the exams even in the university. This has raised eyebrows to most employers bearing in mind how the so called graduate will provide the required service competently in his/ her field of expertise.

Increased Lecturer Student Ratio

One employer confessed that the rapid growth of universities has made him think twice before hiring a graduate; he’d rather go for college student who knows what he is doing than a quack university graduate. The universities have been accused of producing half baked graduates by the society. This is because the education systems have been so weak making the so called graduates go through campus for formality. This is due to the number of students per lecturer. The ratio which has made it increase from 1:300 to 1:700 students. This has caused congestion making it easy for students to use other uncouth means to pass their exams which is supposed to prepare them to the social life.

Frankly speaking, who would listen to such lecture full of people unless it’s a campaign? This has posed a challenge in supervising the exams for the lecturers and has made it easy for students to prove their incompetency. Some students struggle to drink the little knowledge from the lecturer by sitting close at least to have an idea of what they will write during the exam. This struggle has brought about the survival for the fittest making campus a jungle and a paradise at the same time.

Survival for the fittest

The increased number of universities in Kenya due to increased population has brought about what I would call survival for the fittest. This has torn the moral fabric of the society apart. Many upgraded universities by the former heads of state experience challenges from lecturers to students. There was jubilation in increasing the number of public universities as parents face shone all over the country not knowing its share of problems would make their children turn the society into what they did not expect. Most of these universities have had insufficient funds to support themselves and so they have limited hostel space for their students. This has made many students to squeeze and share beds together at least to have a place where they can shelter.

Almost half of the government sponsored students miss hostels making others to commute from home yet they come from far. This does not give them a conducive time for study for instance in Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture & Technology well known as JKUAT students have been commuting from as far as Ruiru which is some kilometers from school. This is due to shortage of hostel. The small hostels resembling a watchman’s barrack is shared with four students taking Medicine. Do you think this can groom a better mind for studying? The challenge is experienced in almost all the universities.

Multimedia University located outskirts the Nairobi business center has less hostels making some of its students to rent outside. This is so costly to the students and the parents. This has made some of these students to look for other means of survival since some parents find it an Acheulian task to raise all the financial needs for the children. Especially a girl species, they run out of option making some of them involve themselves in illegal activities to get money to fund their selves. The terms sugar mummy and sugar daddies is not new to a campus student. They have been so much attached to these titles. This has caused rampant increase in the sexually transmitted diseases as HIV/AIDS in the campuses. This has weakened the moral fabric in the society today as parents expect better from their children but what they get is far different from the expectation. Some go home with pregnancies dropping school as others dye in the process of miscarriage and abortion.

The case of Mercy Keino a third year student from the University of Nairobi can be one of the many stories of the increased deaths of campus students. Her case is linked to the big wigs of the country and drug peddlers. Justice has never been served and the only people who get hurt the most are the parents.

Universities have always been viewed as institutions of higher learning. Well this phrase contradicts what the members of the institutions have made it what it is today. The number of universities made public have been assigned by some of the officials tasked to take responsibility of the mantle handled to them to lead the universities. However, most of them have come out as opportunists and embezzled the public funds allocated to them by the government to run the upcoming institutions. This has curtailed the growth of these institutions as they take advantage of the institutions being young and inexperienced to loot for themselves what they can.

Some of these heads have gone ahead and inculcate the bad mannerism of tribalism when it comes to hiring the staffs of the institution. Crying about tribalism yet it starts with people entrusted with country’s education system is like trying to erode a hidden a culture that we have thrived for a while. The lecturers and the professors have been boycotting due to salary increment. This has been seen due to increased number of capacity lectured by one lecturer. They have been doing hard work containing the many students in a class making them advocate for salary increment. The increased number of higher institution as a result increasing the number of population in the institution has caused limitation of accessing the Higher Education Loans Board loan. Many students have not accessed this loan making them ‘survive’ in campus.

Following the large enrollment in the increased number of public universities, the job market has been experienced as a tight one. The competition from private and well known institutions which have been there before has made it hard for the students in these upgraded universities to secure job easily.

Complains from the newly graduates have been heard saying that most employers prefer hiring graduate from a well known university than the upgraded university. This has made the unemployed sector of the country to sky rocket at an alarming rate. An employer would prefer hiring a graduate of Information Technology from JKUAT than the same graduate from Dedan Kimathi University. The graduates from those institutions that already created brand long ago have an upper hand to those that were chartered the other year. This has posed a great challenge especially in the job market sector as inequity will mark the order of the day despite one having the know how of the job better than the other one in the well known institution of higher learning.

Cases of fraudulent degrees have been in the public domain of late questioning the degrees of some of the big people in the government. The number of public institutions having raised their toll numbers has made some to acquire degrees even though some of them have never stepped in a lecture hall. Some people endorsed with wealth have taken advantage of these upgraded universities and have produced fake degrees from these higher institutions of learning. Hiding into these institutions as their cocoon whenever asked where they got their degrees they point out to theses upcoming universities. This has been their shield of defending their incompetency in the office they are supposed to serve to the best of their knowledge.

The above challenges have been experienced due to the upgrading of the university colleges and curbing some of them would greatly contribute to the betterment of the society. Shortage of hostels need to be a thing of the past as the government should produce enough funds to build more rooms for the students for a conducive environment that will enable the students to get the education well. Just the way the vice Chancellor of Kenyatta University did by signing a contract of building hostel worth millions as long as the student get a place to put their head for better studies. This will cut the expense of the students who are paying rents expensively living outside the school premise. Having the students in the hostel will give them ample time for studies. Competency in the hand should be key to all students. Studying should not be a formality just for a degree but to sharpen ones skills to expertise in a particular field of study. This will only be experienced when the exams are taken seriously in the institutions starting from secondary school up to the institution of higher learning. Stringent measures are encouraged to be put to curb stealing of exams to avoid producing half baked graduated who only think of life as a bed of roses. In the end of four years a graduate should be able to know his/her purpose in life and the way forward instead of waiting to be employed rather than thinking of starting his/her own company. This will open up the mind of many graduates who are fond of the say “maisha ni connections”. Church leaders should play a major role in molding the students and the society holistically to mend the moral fabric that had been destroyed.

However as much as there has been challenges in the growth and rise of public universities, it had served a greater purpose in life by making sure an African child somewhere gets education that will equips him with skills to face life and have a better future. That is one thing we all need to appreciate it and not just to cling on the critics and the challenges they have posed to the society.

Article first published on March 11 2016

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Entrepreneurs

Reuben Kimani Crowned the African Business Personality

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Reuben Kimani CEO, Username Investment Ltd was crowned the 2019 African Business Personality Award at the Voice Achievers Award gala dinner recently held at Louis Leakey Memorial Hall in National Museums of Kenya. Reuben was awarded alongside His Excellency Raila Odinga, Governor Kivutha Kibwana, Prof. PLO Lumumba, Dr. Kizza Besigye, Hon Ababu Namwamba, Arch Bishop Arthur Kitonga among other distinguished leaders. The Deputy President William Ruto was also in attendance where he witnessed the winners receive their awards.

The Voice Achievers Awards was established in the Netherlands by The Voice Magazine and seeks to recognize outstanding men and women who have made positive impact on Africa and its people. The award is held yearly and is on its 10th Anniversary and this was the first edition of the awards in Kenya. The winners ranged from Africans and friends of Africa who in pursuit of their businesses and services to humanity, have distinguished themselves in various fields of human endeavor across the African continent.

I thank God, my family, Username Investments Team, our clients and stakeholders for believing in me. I am humbled by this recognition of our efforts in making property ownership inclusive for everyone regardless of their income. Our desire as Username Investments has always been to provide Kenyans living locally and abroad with a place they can call home at affordable prices. We have been in the industry for over 6 years and I am proud that we have impacted thousands of clients across the formal and informal sectors and especially the youth”, Reuben Kimani said as he received his trophy.

Reuben Kimani was accompanied by Username staff members who cheered him for his outstanding leadership.

The proportion of Kenyan youth to the population stands at 20.3%, the highest in Africa and among the highest globally according to the US-based Population Reference Bureau. This population has been faced with unemployment and I am glad that Username Investments has created employment to over 50 directly and 500 indirectly employed in our three offices; two in Nairobi and one in Nakuru”, Reuben continued.

Reuben Kimani, CEO, Username Investment Ltd. receiving his award as The 2019 African Business Personality at the 2019 Voice Achievers Award Ceremony

As the co-founder and CEO of Username Investments, Reuben believes in being impactful in the society by focusing on ideas and work that radically transform people’s lives. His mantra is to get important things done and done fast. Housing being a basic necessity of every human being alongside food and water, he has led the Company to make properties deliberately affordable with prices as low Ksh 199,000 which are also value-added with a perimeter fence, estate gate, graded access roads, water and electricity making them ready for immediate development. This has made great contribution in the Affordable Housing Agenda, one of the 4 key pillars of the government development agenda that aims at providing affordable homes to Kenyans who have been experiencing prolonged renting periods especially in the urban areas.

To all young people in Africa, take action and do something. Talent, knowledge and big talk is useless without action”, Reuben concluded by encouraging young people to do something that will have an impact in their lives.

Username Investment Limited Team together with the CEO, Reuben Kimani, after he won The 2019 African Business Personality Award at the Voice Achievers Awards

Through his leadership, the Company has accomplished over 37 projects, issued over 6,000 title deeds to clients living both in Kenya and the diaspora. His efforts have seen the Company bag accolades across the industry for outstanding performance including; Top 100 Midsized Company Award, Real Estate SME of the Year, Best Land and Investment Company among others. As an individual he has bagged Diversity and Inclusion Business Executive Champion Award, Entrepreneur of the Year by Kenya Professional Realtors Association (KPRA) and JKUAT Alumni Achievement Award for his achievements post-graduation.

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George Wachiuri-The ten ‘P’s of success

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For a young graduate to make it in the job market, he must have a set of qualities that set him apart from the rest, in this video George Wachiuri shares with you the ten’P’s that will make you soar like an eagle and achieve greatness and create a difference.

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Education Is No Longer A Key To Success In Kenya.

Walter Kiongozi

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Growing up in my rural village many years ago, I remember clearly my primary headteacher telling us every Monday to study so hard so that we can be able to a join good secondary schools which was like a breakthrough of pursuing good courses at the university. An entry to the university was every parent’s prayer as it was a sign of success and to be specific wealth. It was the most precious thing that joining the university could make a headline in the village.

There was value in education with every graduate receiving the respect he or she deserves as appreciation of hard work. What happened to Education as a key to success is a puzzle that everyone is trying to solve. In a country where the primary schools drop outs, KCSE grade ‘D’ graduates, sorry to say are advising and lecturing First class honors graduates on how to cope up, survive and succeed in real world is an indication that things are changing and the norm is no longer normal.

As an engineering student at the University of Nairobi, Kenya’s premier University, I have spent 5 years in class and engineering labs acquiring skills which I believe are relevant in the corporate world and necessary in the job market. Unfortunately, my work is being offered to a diploma or certificate graduate who is not only believed to be affordable but also easy to handle, demote and fire anytime without an explanation.

Any graduate has a prize on his head which employers don’t like. There is no longer respect and honor in education. The degrees and academic papers are only admired by those who do not have them and the majority who have the qualification are a disappointed lot because the papers they are holding are not adding value to their life. In a country where without a ‘god father ‘you will walk around with your degree or masters until social media or a good Samaritan comes to your rescue is a society which does not value education.

Ever asked yourself why a son of an engineer will pursue engineering, a daughter of a lawyer with pursue law and an economist will make sure his child goes in the same field? It is called maintaining the roots and strengthening the plant. What of that poor son or daughter who hails from a rural village somewhere with no god father or no one in the field he or she studied. Will that poor child ever be employed? Is there hope? What happened to the respect of the mighty degrees?

Having a tall relative has not only killed the basic foundation of employment criteria but also weakened the educational systems of the country. That is why it is no longer a surprise to find an engineer working in a hospital as a nurse, a theologian owning an engineering consultant firm and an anthropologist advising people on what they should do with their money. It is not your qualification anymore it is who you know.

What now?

I think it is a high time our lovely teachers stop feeding children at a young age that Education is opens the door to success. It no longer the key to the door; it is a key to the gate of success; more is needed to get to the door of success and who knows maybe that padlock got lost. Having a lot of knowledge in class is not a guarantee of success in life. Passing all your exams and getting a first-class honor is not a surety of securing a job in Kenya. Our children should be advised and nurtured to be smart both in class and outside class. Let a student not got to games with a C.R.E test book pretending to be reading for exam, let a student not go to drama, environmental or journalism clubs with a physics encyclopedia pretending to be the most hardworking person. the society we are living in does not require hardworking and bright people, it needs intelligent and smart people fully of diversity who can discovered what is not taught in school.

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