By Claire Wanja
The Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Education Dr. Fred Okengo Matiang’i has challenged universities in Kenya to become research universities and to increase their funding by selling research-based products.
Speaking at the Aga Khan University convocation ceremony in Nairobi where he was Chief Guest, Matiang’i urged universities to connect with knowledge commercialisers through technology incubators, to develop entrepreneurial curricula, and to nurture government-university-industry links.
Dr Matiang’i said that the government is making several efforts through the Ministry, including enforcing existing legislation designed to ensure innovative leadership is injected into all institutions of higher learning. They are also introducing criteria for recognizing universities on the basis of world class indicators of education quality.
“For us to realise Kenya Vision 2030, the country needs quality university education where the focus is empowering students for real-world challenges they will face after graduation, and not mass university education,” concluded Dr Matiang’i.
A total of 57 students graduated in Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN), Master of Medicine (MMed) and Master of Education (MEd).
In his welcome remarks, AKU President Mr. Firoz Rasul underscored the role of civil society organisations, saying that a vibrant civil society is a sign of national strength and maturity. He encouraged the graduates to volunteer their time, expertise and leadership as members of civil society in order to address critical challenges facing their communities and countries.
He reminded the graduands to see themselves as agents of change, charged with identifying crucial problems and developing evidence-based solutions urging them to practice at the highest international standards; to think creatively and independently; and to work effectively with individuals from many different backgrounds.
He thanked donors and supporters, with a special mention to the German government, through BMZ and KfW, which are supporting the Graduate School of Media and Communications in Nairobi as well as the University’s Schools of Nursing and Midwifery in Uganda through a €31.2 million grant; the Canadian government, which is providing $31 million to improve pre-primary and primary education, including in the Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale counties, through the Strengthening Education Systems in East Africa initiative, which involves the AKU’s Institute for Educational Development; The Ford and Rockefeller Foundations and Canada’s International Development Research Centre which are helping to fund the Dialogue Series run by AKU’s East African Institute in Nairobi. The Institute recently released the results of a major survey of East Africa’s youth as part of that project.
On AKU expansion, Mr. Rasul said that the University plans to construct a new Aga Khan University Hospital in Kampala that will in addition to providing world class healthcare, train specialist doctors, nurses and other health professionals. New medical and nursing education programmes will also be created in Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi.
The university will also construct a modern multi-storey tower on Peponi Road Nairobi that will house the Graduate School of Media and Communications as well as the planned Graduate School of Leadership and Management.
The Aga Khan University, which spans three countries in East Africa alone, has announced plans to invest more than US$ 1 billion in the region over the next 15 years, the largest private investment in higher education in the history of the region.