The rot in public universities that led to closure of more than 10 campuses of Kisii and Laikipia universities last week has come to light.
The closure followed the inspection of several campuses across the country last year.
Inspection reports by the Commission for University Education indicate that the campuses are in pathetic conditions.
Some of them operate in premises that have been condemned as unfit for human habitation.
Lecture rooms are too small to accommodate the large number of students. Ventilation is poor and sanitation is lacking.
Few of the campuses have health facilities and student centres as required by the Universities Standards and Guidelines 2014.
Neither do they have recreational facilities such as sports pitches.
The affected university campuses of Kisii University were: Eldoret, Eldama Ravine, Nyamira, Kabarnet, Migori, Ogembo, Keroka, Kehancha, Kapenguria, Isebania.
The university has 13 campuses and 10 were ordered closed. The other affected institution was Laikipia University’s Nyahururu campus.
Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i described the situation in some of the campuses as “intolerable, unbelievable and an affront on higher education” and vowed to push for a crackdown on such institutions.
“We must make hard decisions and quickly pull higher education out of the current mess it finds itself in,” said Dr Matiang’i. “Our teams will intensify the crackdown and all institutions that do not measure will close.”
In general, the inspection established that most of the campuses do not have adequate teaching and learning facilities, lecturers, proper administrative structures and accommodation.
Lecturers do not have offices; they just pop in class and walk away immediately after the lectures. Student-lecturer interaction was minimal.
Computers and Internet facilities were unavailable and students had to make do with cyber cafes in the local trading centres for typing and printing services, which facilities operate infrequently for lack of electricity or connectivity.
A majority of the lecturers, the inspection team found, were unqualified and have no experience in university teaching.
In worst cases, some campuses had hired primary school teachers to teach part-time.
Such teachers were at their schools during the day and went to teach at the university campuses in the evening.
The concern was that they were purported to have master’s degrees, the minimum qualification to handle a university class, but which qualifications were not recognised even by their employer, the Teachers Service Commission, which had not upgraded them as would normally happen.
Some students, it was established, do not have the basic university entry requirement, having been recruited to pursue parallel or evening courses with grades D+ at the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education or Division Four in the defunct Kenya Certificate of Education but have not done any bridging course.
The minimum entry is C+ at KCSE with good grades in the compulsory subjects – mathematics, English, Kiswahili and one science subject.
For those in the former system, they must have a minimum of two principles and a subsidiary pass in the defunct Kenya Certificate of Advanced Level.
Equally worse were the postgraduate programmes at Kisii University.
Five doctoral and two master’s degrees graduates were stripped of their awards because they were attained irregularly.
According to the Commission, some of the students did not meet the entry qualifications, the duration of the courses was too short and supervision was questionable.
For example, all the five doctorates were supervised by one professor, an untenable situation in any university.
A more fundamental issue was that Kisii became a full-fledged university only in 2013, so the question is: how could it produce five doctoral graduates by December 2014?
According to regulations, a university can only offer graduate programmes at least three years after its charter.
The inspection considered areas such as accreditation, quality of teaching and learning facilities, books and other learning resources, the calibre of the academic staff, administrative staff and their respective skills.
In total, the commission inspected 32 campuses in Western, Nyanza and the Rift Valley region.
The next round of inspection will target Central, Eastern and Coast regions.
Dr Matiang’i has since appointed a three-member team to guide and advise the universities on what to do to upgrade their facilities, regularise their programmes and tackle the administrative and policy lapses so that they can be allowed to continue with their operations.
The team consists of former vice-chancellors, Prof Crispus Kiamba (chairman) and Prof George Magoha, and the dean of the Law School, University of Nairobi, Prof Patricia Mbote-Kameri.
It has two weeks to develop a roadmap for regularising operations of the campuses and subsequently work with the universities for one year to implement the action plan.
While appointing the team, Dr Matiang’i varied the earlier deadline of 90 days given to the universities by CUE to comply with the quality standards. Now they have a year to comply.
“The directive to close the universities still stands,” explained Dr Matiang’i.
“What we have done is to extend the period from three months to one year given that some of the things they have to do will require slightly longer period, like acquiring new premises and equipping them with facilities.”
He added: “What is happening at the universities is not acceptable. We must clean up the mess and restore sanity in higher education.”
The chief executive of CUE, Prof David Some, concurred, saying the extension of the compliance period was reasonable.
But he was categorical that those which will not adhere to prescribed quality standards will have to close shop.
Last year, the commission gave eight university campuses a year’s notice to clean up or be closed.
Since, Prof Some says, two of them have written to the commission to be re-inspected and are expected to get a clean bill of health to resume normal operations.
The universities whose satellite campuses were targeted are: St Paul’s, Egerton, Africa Nazarene, South Eastern Kenya, Dedan Kimathi, Masinde Muliro and Jomo Kenyatta.