The Kenyan government will no longer fund public universities and colleges, Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu now says.
Speaking on Saturday at the Dedan Kimathi University of Science and Technology in Nyeri County, CS Machogu said that the current financial crisis affecting the institutions called for alternative sources of income for the institutions to ease pressure on the government.
He thus urged the public institutions of higher learning to embrace research, innovation, and technology to generate their individual income since the State is on the verge of withdrawing its financial support.
“In Kenya, education takes about 25.9 percent and we have to find other ways of creating and generating revenues for universities and they have to look at other revenues,” he said.
“I’m going to move around each and every university in Kenya because a number is faced with financial problems and we are encouraging that they must generate their own income because the exchequer as it is now is not going to continue funding more.”
The announcement by the CS comes amid major universities across the country dealing with strikes over lack of funds.
When I went to the University of Nairobi in 1981 as a student in the Faculty of Commerce to study accounting there were only two universities in Kenya both were public colleges. It was actually the first time for me a son of peasants in Bondo to rub shoulders with the kids of the super-rich who had to attend the same college.
There was everybody there from every tribe and Kenyan Asians and we all felt like we are a big part of Kenya and had to study hard to give something back to the country.
My father Shem Adongo who was a great fan of university education and my mother, Alice Ogalo a nursery school teacher who refused to give me the cakes she made for her students unless I attended the nursery school always told me I had to make it to the university.
At that time it was free for all Kenyans. You pass your High School exams and qualify to go to college money was not an issue. You take the bus to Nairobi and go register. It was one of the most exciting things for young Kenyans. You just felt like you are equal to everybody in the country and you have to do the work and contribute to your country.
My road to university was very funny and full of happy things. I was in High School at Kakamega and I went there because I loved playing field hockey and we were the only school to beat the Kisumu Boys High school hockey team which was the best in the country.
In Kakamega, we had amazing things in sports where our football team the indomitable “Green Commandos” was a national phenomenon beating everybody with players who took it all the way to the national team like Mike Amwayi, Lichungu (Chung Cheng), George Odhiambo (Jojo) and others.
So we were kind of junior to them but we won the provincial championship and went to the national contest held in Mombasa at that time.
The other thing in Kakamega for me is that we had a career counsellor at the school whose job was to work with students to help them choose what they want to do at the university. So my counsellor asks me what I want to do in college. I tell him I want to study law and be a lawyer.
So he makes an arrangement for me to go visit a lawyer in Kakamega town. We go there with him and it was a mess. There were so many papers all over that office there was nowhere for us to sit down. When we come back I tell the career counsellor I no longer want to study law and that is how I ended up being an accounting student at Nairobi University.
The Dean of the Faculty of Commerce at that time was Prof. Ngotho wa Kariuki. He was a very straightforward guy. We were about 150 students in the faculty and he told us we had to make the grades every year to make it to the next year. Otherwise, you repeat the same year. Students use to call that zerox and we all hated it. But you had to make the grades to avoid it.
He was one heck of a lecturer in accounting which was his technical area of focus. He tried so hard to make us good accountants and would send us to do internships as accountants in private companies and get reports back on how we did. He was really determined to make his students succeed after they left college.
Unfortunately, the prof ended up at Nyayo House just like some of his students like me and he wrote a book about it because when he left detention after Nyayo House he was practically declared dead and had to be taken out of the country to sustain his health and recover.
To get back to the issue at hand, Kenya cannot afford to abandon public universities and abolish them altogether. Having public university education has been the greatest equalizer in our country.
It has been the only place where peasant kids come together with those from billionaire families and everybody has a chance to make it. The country cannot destroy. Is that the new Ruto Bottoms Up gimmick? Deny kids from poor families the right to go to university and have a chance in life.
If the Ruto government withdraws funding from public universities, they will go bankrupt and close their doors. That would be a wonderful achievement for William Ruto in his fight to dismantle everything that works in Kenya. Never mind that the government already has a big problem in providing students loan program HELP.
Education is a real issue for Kenyans. Let’s deal with it smartly. I have a young niece named after my mother by my sister who is her mother. The kid passed her high school and is going to college in Thika in January 2023. The first thing we have to do is buy her a laptop computer and we have done that. She needs a place to stay in a city she has never been before.
That is fine and we will handle it. She has family in Nairobi who say they will support her and makes things work. Families are working off their butts to keep kids in school so that they can be successful in their lives. The role of any government is to help that and not to recklessly just destroy everything.
Adongo Ogony is a Human Rights Activist and a Writer who lives in Toronto, Canada