Public universities have been challenged to adopt new research and technological skills in order to adapt to the needs of a rapidly changing world.
Speaking at the Machakos University while opening a three day international Conference on Research and Science, Principal Secretary for University and Higher Education Professor Japheth Michemi Ntiba said unless institutions transformed themselves into research hubs, they were at risk of becoming irrelevant.
The PS noted that for many years, universities in the country have concentrated in offering theoretical courses to their graduands, noting that the trend must now change to include courses that are tailor made in solving Africa’s emerging challenges.
“Universities need to go back to research and knowledge based learning to help them offer new products to the market needs. Institutions of higher learning should invest into programs that ensure Africa doesn’t remain a consumer of international products,” he said.
The PS, who also read the speech on behalf of Education CS Dr Amina Mohammed was emphatic that university graduates must be trained on courses that are aligned to the world’s common goals such as provision of information, environment conservation and social and cultural challenges.
He pointed out that for this to happen, more investment must also be channelled into training to ensure those coming out of the colleges are fully trained to take on the market needs.
Professor Ntiba termed the quality of education being offered in most public universities as wanting, saying at times, students take longer times studying a single course as compared to other parts of the world.
“Universities should come out of their ivory towers and embrace greater interactions with political and private sectors through research and a multidisciplinary knowledge. Society must rate us on what we offer them but not on how we evaluate ourselves,” he added.
On the on-going strike by lectures, the PS said the government was committed to resolving the stalemate which has paralyzed learning in all public universities for the last seven weeks.
He said it was unfortunate that the matter had taken such a long time to be resolved but also blamed the striking dons for not willing to budge from their hard line position, causing untold suffering to thousands of innocent students across the country.
“It is extremely serious that lecturers who are supposed to teach our future leaders spend a lot of their time outside their classrooms. Strikes by lectures have been a challenge in our universities for a long time and it is time we end this problem once and for all,” he added.
The conference, whose theme is ‘Harnessing Scientific Research, Innovation and Technology for Sustainable Development’ is the first of its kind at the institution, and has drawn both research students and academia from Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria and Ethiopia among other countries.
Some of the key speakers expected to address the conference include the Chairman, Commission for University Education Professor Chacha Nyaigotti-Chacha, Konza Technopolis CEO Engineer John Tanui and Professor Birhanu Dejene who is don of Physics and Material Science at the University of Free State, South Africa among others.
Also in attendance was Machakos University VC Professor Lucy W. Irungu.