VICE CHANCELLOR’S ADDRESS DURING THE VIRTUAL 63RD GRADUATION CEREMONY ON FRIDAY, 25TH SEPTEMBER 2020 AT 8.00AM.
Cabinet Secretary for Education, Prof. Geroge Magoha,
The Chancellor of the University of n Nairobi, Dr. Vijoo Rattansi,
Chair of Council, Prof. Julia Ojiambo,
The Chairman of Alumni Association, Mr. Isaac Awuondo.
The graduating class of 2020 and their families,
Members of the University community,
Our online audience,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honor and privilege for me to participate in this graduation ceremony as the Vice Chancellor and Chair of Senate which satisfied all those being admitted to the respective degrees and receiving award of diplomas. It is also gratifying to note that this is the first graduation to be done virtually in the history of the university of Nairobi.
Allow me from the onset to congratulate all graduands of class 2020 for the wonderful accomplishment. Upon being admitted to the respective degrees and award of diplomas you will be privileged to join a strong army, a big network, the convocation of the University of Nairobi. I appeal to you to always wear the badge of honor and continue to exhibit the indomitable spirit of the University of Nairobi. Your light will shin brighter and brighter every day. As a University Community we are confident that we have impacted you, well enough for the period you have spent with us, with relevant skill, behaviors and competencies that will put you on a trajectory of success.
The Covid 19 pandemic which came in like a thief in the night, tested our systems and our resolve. We all witnessed how the University of Nairobi came alive within a very short time after the initial panic. This is mainly because of our indomitable spirit, resilience, and the commitment to our philosophy of giving hope and faith to our Kenyan people. You also even in the midst of ravaging effects of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic did not falter. You remained steadfast until the mission has been accomplished. I salute you! I salute all staff, I salute all those who supported you!
This is the 63rd congregation for the conferment of degrees and award of diploma at University of Nairobi. The first congregation was presided over by His Excellency, the late President Jomo Kenyatta in 1970 with 461 graduates. Since then the Convocation has risen to a total of 237,661. In my community we have a saying- “Ruru rutari njau nikuhuka ruhukaga”- directly translated to mean “a herd without calves is on the verge of becoming extinct. This congregation today is a testament that despite the challenges we have faced, the values and ethos of University of Nairobi will live one.
In his inaugural address as the first Chancellor of the University of Nairobi in 1970, His Excellency the late President Kenyatta said, and I quote “ I am confident that this (University of Nairobi) will abundantly justify the hopes and sacrifices of our people. …….. If the mind of the nation is to flower through this university, the professors and lecturers must be free to teach their subjects while students and research workers must feel free to pursue the truth and publish their findings without fear”
Fifty years on since our first president pronounced what the society would be expecting from the University, the University of Nairobi has done well to remain true to these expectations. However, we have experienced a myriad of challenges along the way which have had the faint hearted to develop cold feet and just surrender and others to borrow other not so pleasant and unprogressive practices from the larger community, what in computer language is commonly referred to as “cut and paste” and make them part of our practice. We have an opportunity when it is still day to redeem ourselves, to reflect on all practices and to correct where we have erred as a University. Recently. I was requested to serve as a panelist in a Webinar where the key Speaker RT Hon. Charles Clarke, former British Home Secretary made a presentation on “ reshaping higher Education in East Africa: Global Trends and Reflections from East Africa Communities agenda 2050”. When it was my turn to speak I posed two questions….who would suffer if the University of Nairobi or any other University in east Africa was closed for good? Who would care if the University of Nairobi or any other University in east Africa was closed? Would the government, would the local community, would the international community? Is it possible that it would be looked at as an issue of loss of jobs, or even just resulting in reduced admissions of students? This would be a disaster as both of these problems can be addressed in several alternative ways. Put in a different way, are we still relevant?
Recently, I shared with the University of Nairobi community how we may address this issue. We must do whatever it takes to make our University sustainable, relevant and vibrant. This is our responsibility. Consequently, I have proposed a 5-point reform agenda which in my view will place our University on a trajectory to excellence, namely data driven reforms, Financial Reforms, Curricula reforms, Governance reforms and people focused reform
Like other public Universities, University of Nairobi has not been spared from acute budgetary deficits and cash flow challenges
The perennial under-capitation of public universities arises from the failure of the current funding model, Differentiated Unit Cost (DUC), to address the unique needs of individual universities. This is a matter that we have brought to the attention of the government.
We will continue to petition the government through the Ministry of Education to review the DUC model because it is based on wrong assumptions.
Public Universities like the University of Nairobi are public goods that heavily rely on capitation from the exchequer to deliver their mandate. As we continue to do our part in cutting cost and enhancing internal revenue generation, we expect that the government will develop appropriate funding mechanisms that ensure the University of Nairobi continue to carry out its public mandate as envisioned.
I have already set in motion the financial reforms geared towards institutionalizing prudent financial management and controls to put the University back on to a positive financial health and path to sustainability.
My first task has been to open the University space for discourses and allow staff to think critically and express themselves freely. We shall not stifle alternative voices that aims at making our University better.
The University is the place where people should think radically, feel restless and yearn for change. We shall open new grounds for change and find ways of carrying everybody along.
You recall that in 2016, you constituted a visitation panel of eminent persons who rightly identified that some of the key constraints impeding institutional planning and efficient management of the University were lack of a responsive governance structure and the limited use of data in management and decision making.
To address the foregoing; my agenda number 1 is to invest in setting up comprehensive and integrated data management system to revolutionize how decisions are made, optimize deployment of resources and improve overall systemic outputs.
We all agree that University has over the years grown in size and complexity. To stay in step with the needs of the university, I believe that there is a compelling need to refresh our management, administrative, oversight and governance structures. This will entail for instance identification and elimination of redundant and overlapping systems, processes, structures and reporting centers.
We have embarked on the review of all the courses offered at the University as part of our curricular reforms. We have begun to assess the cost of their implementation and to evaluate their relevance to the needs of the industry, impacts on society and their sustainability. We are going to systematically weed out redundant and overlapping courses and programs. We are going to recalibrate our metrics of world class-talent and make deliberate efforts in growing the internationalization of the University. Towards this end the Senate has approved policies for double degree and joint degree programs at the University of Nairobi.
The people are the foundation of success of the University. The people include University students, faculty, staff, collaborators and stakeholders. The university is proactively taking deliberate steps to brand itself. We shall Identify and celebrate talents and achievements as well as exploit intangible assets through commercialization and promotion of research and technology transfer ecosystem
The University of Nairobi is the academia of preferred choice for most Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education graduates. We admits very brilliant students with abundant talent that are the beacon of hope for the future of their families and the country
Unfortunately, Senate Disciplinary Committees occasionally have to expel a number of these students for breaching student code of conduct and related regulations. The senate and council recently approved the guidelines on how to check and balance the rigors of quasi-judicial administrative students disciplinary processes and procedures and to readmit expelled remorseful students who are ready to continue with their education in the University. The administrative punishments meted on students put to disciplinary procedure ought to be corrective and aimed at helping such students to overcome their weaknesses and be transformed into better citizens after their university education. The Students who show remorse for their actions and commit to uphold the rule of law and are willing to be supported to complete their studies will be pardoned and readmitted to the University
Finally Madam Chancellor, I would wish to thank the parents, guardians, sponsors and lecturers for guiding and supporting these students in their quest for knowledge.
We are very pleased to graduate 2,851 graduands, comprising of 54 candidates who have qualified to be awarded PhDs, 370 Master degree awards, 2,045 Bachelor degree and 367 Diploma awards. 63% are male and 47% are female. This is a joint effort The graduates have been equipped with relevant skills to be competent and globally competitive.
The University is celebrating 50 years since its inception in 1 July 1970. We have achieved a lot and made significant contributions in Industry, public service and in the community.
I invite all stakeholders and the Alumni to join us in the commemoration of our 50th anniversary. There will be many activities and events lined up between now and next year June 2021 which will to evoke nostalgic experiences about the UoN Brand.
Thank you and God bless you.
Prof. Stephen Kiama Gitahi, PhD
Vice Chancellor, University of Nairobi