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Features

Graduating today? 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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Companies

Irene Wanjiku Talks About Roof Evolution

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The author of this article is a roofing specialist most commonly known as ‘The Roofing Queen’ and Managing Director of Rexe Roofing Products Ltd. Learn more about her here.


Most architects I have interacted with, and discussed some aspects of roofing for their projects, would not shy off from expressing their frustrations dealing with clients whose preoccupation is the roof. Not just a roof, but a complex one with a series of pitches and ridges combined with dormers and roof windows with surfaces pitched at absurd angles and finished with all manner of materials with varying colours, all as the clients fight to beat their neighbours by having the most ‘unique’ house. For them, to achieve this uniqueness and beauty, the roof is critical.

For the 15 years that I have been in the roofing industry, helping architects and developers put good roofs over the houses they design and build, I have come to learn that how a roof looks is important. More important however is the understanding that a roof equals protection and survival. A roof protects the things we love and care about and it offers us safety and strength if properly built and installed.

Man has utilized various natural resources, technological methods and ways of application throughout history to create the roofing we have today. From wood, mud and straw, to tiling, shingles and beyond, one thing we have always taken for granted is the necessity of a properly functioning roof for survival since the dawn of time. Roofs help protect us every day of our lives but we rarely think about them unless they stop working properly.

The earliest known roofing was the wooly skin of a giant mammoth noted in Siberia 40,000 BC.

In 100 BC the Romans introduced slating and tiling and in 735 AD thatched roofs made their debut. 300 years would pass before wood shingles bowed and it wasn’t until the 12th Century when things really got moving. Right about that time, King John of England decided that thatched and reed roofs of London were to be replaced with clay tiles. This was in an attempt to reduce spreading of fires. This declaration became some sort of a ‘law’.

We have come a long way since putting wooly mammoth over our heads and the roofing industry has changed a lot in the last 200 years. The idea remains the same today as it was then; a quality roof is safety and protection from the elements, it keeps us warm during cold weather and cool when it is hot outside.

How a roof is built is dependent upon a number of factors, key among them is the architectural concepts implemented in the building design. The building design concepts, especially with regards to the roofs, would be influenced by the purpose of the building, available roof building materials and technologies, and the local traditions of construction.

The basic shapes of a roof include flat, mono pitched, gabled, hipped, butterfly, arched and domed. There are many variations of the same types and the factors which influence the shapes of the roofs are climate of the area and materials available for the roof structure and finishes for the outer layer.

Currently in Kenya, roof typologies are stagnant. Most residential buildings have pitched roofs, some which could even be of organic shapes mostly due to the use of flexible materials like thatch or shingles. A few variants have made use of flat roofs, ostensibly to create usable terrace spaces at the roof level. The dominant roof typology for the commercial buildings is the flat roof.

Pitched roofs are usually two sided sloped, mostly with a gable on both ends. If the gables are replaced with pitched surfaces, creating a pyramidal shaped roof, this variation transforms into a heaped roof. In most cases, the pitch of both sides is the same although it is not unusual to see roofs pitched at different angles primarily for aesthetics.

Majority of the roofing projects we have worked on in Kenya have a traditional joinery support structure. Construction of the structure is carried out on site with the help of sawn timber. The joints of the timber are nailed together and at times reinforced with the use of hoop iron around some of the joints. Fabrication on site is preferable as it allows for flexibility especially in cases where accuracy and consistency in measurements maybe a problem.

In the recent past, light gauge steel made a debut into the industry as a possible replacement to timber. The uptake has been on the rise with developers using it mostly as a truss structure in place of the traditional timber trusses. Its popularity is rising due to the light weight of the steel allowing for quick construction without heavy tools and equipment.

Pitched roof is also aesthetically appealing effective in shedding water hence reducing water leakage during heavy rains. Most home owners have come to refer to a pitched roof as the crown of their home, as if done correctly it not only depicts order but beauty of the home and elegance as well.

In reality, there is no flat roof. This term is generally used to describe roofs with low pitches, below 10 degrees. Mostly used for commercial buildings where the form of the building is not dependent on a visible roof. Climates with low levels of rainfall and high temperatures are also dominated with flat roofs that provide a living space on the roof in the form of a terrace. Flat roofs tend fail in places with high levels of rainfall.

As you ink down the sketches for your next project, or as you reconsider what you are currently building, we shall be at hand to share ideas and insights on several aspects of roofing for projects. The roof is a broad area whose surface we have just touched. In the coming issues of BUILDesign Magazine, we shall delve deeper into the various aspects of roofing and engage with you as we discuss some of these aspects in detail.

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Entrepreneurs

Mike Bloomberg’s 6 Pieces of Advice

He is currently the richest person in New York and 9th in the whole world according to Forbes 2019 analysis.

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Mike Bloomberg |

Mike Bloomberg is a business magnate, politician, author and philanthropist whose net worth is estimated at 53.8 billion USD (2019). He is the richest person in New York and 9th in the whole world according to Forbes 2019 analysis. His salary for his third term as Mayor of New York City was a whopping $1 per year. If that is true, he was the Mayor of the largest city in the U.S., for free. Below are his 6 pieces of advice,

1. Work hard;

“If there’s only one key to success, it’s hard work. I always give the most difficult and complicated assignment I have to the most overworked person in the company. There’s a reason they don’t have time – work is a marketplace and it’s telling you this person is good. When I worked at Salomon Brothers, I was always the first person in the office in the morning. The second was Barney Salomon, the managing partner. So if he wanted to know the football scores or if he needed a match for his cigar, then he’d come over and talk to me. All it was, was coming in early. If you like what you’re doing it’s fun, if you don’t it’s miserable.”

Take working hard to the next level. Get in early, leave late, and go further than your competitors.

2. Leverage your losses into wins;

Bloomberg had been a general partner at investment bank Salomon Brothers when he was laid off in 1981. Although a sizable severance package eased his pain, he decided to use his knowledge of the industry and the money from his former boss to create a juggernaut of a company – Bloomberg L.P. By 1990 Bloomberg had installed 8,000 of his terminals, leverage his unexpected layoff into a huge win. He has stayed in control of his company and still owns 88% of it.

3. Love what you do;

“It must be miserable to wake up every day and hate what you do. Go and do something else. If you hate it, how can it be worse?”

You’ll never be great at something if you don’t like doing it.

4. Keep Perspective;

“I’ve never had a bad job. I’ve only ever had two bad days in my life – when my mother died and when my father died. Apart from that, how bad can it be?”

As long as you’re alive and your family are alive, suck it up.

5. Show your face;

This is important regardless of how “high profile” you are. It is even more important when you are a well-known figure in the public or within your company. People want to know who they are working for. The more I get to know you, the more willing I am to work hard for you.

6. Be genuine;

“There is a characteristic that all good leaders have and it’s that they’re genuine. Will this person be with you in the trenches, go over the top, or will they stay back and say ‘you go’?”
Bloomberg’s speech may be harsh and direct but at least it’s genuine.

A version of this article was published on Facebook on 27th August 2018 by George Mangs.

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