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Chancellors draft proposals to purge varsities

Sunday January 22 2017

Education

Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i addresses a stakeholder's conference at Kenyatta University on August 22, 2016. Lack of enough doctorate holders as teaching staff has impacted the institutions negatively. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

SUNDAY NATION REPORTER
By SUNDAY NATION REPORTER
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gStaff of all public universities will in future belong to one employer if radical proposals by chancellors meant to address the rot in the institutions are accepted.

All the 33 chancellors of public universities and colleges have recommended the formation of a University Service Commission (USC) that will be in charge of recruiting, promoting, distributing and disciplining of lecturers.

In a report likely to be discussed at the first-ever Chancellors Convention on Wednesday, the officials argue that the commission will help deal with incompetent lecturers, those who miss classes and also ethnic balancing among other problems that affect the public-owned institutions.

“This will assist in restoring universities as national institutions rather than regional ones,” the report says of the organisations that are run under the Universities Act.

If formed, the commission will act in much the same way as the Teachers’ Service Commission - which is in charge of recruiting, promoting, transferring and disciplining staff.

The USC will recruit lecturers from a central point using the same criteria. This will weed out the unwanted lecturers.

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The chancellors say the quality of lecturers in Kenya today is “wanting” as there are “many people with dubious qualifications teaching in public universities owing to nepotism and other vices”.

According to the Draft Report of the Sub-Committee on Challenges in Capacity Building at Public Universities, a professor or senior lecturer recruited by the commission shall be recognised throughout Kenyan universities.

Lecturers can, therefore, work in any part of the country as per demand and call.

This is key to de-ethnicising universities and to promote national cohesion.

QUALITY OF STAFF
A database of all the qualified lecturers in the country at all levels shall be generated by USC.

“Only lecturers with certificate of registration shall be allowed to practise,” the report says.

The commission will also be in charge of disciplining lecturers who don’t attend classes and “cook” marks, and non-performing ones to restore professionalism.

The report proposes that a campaign be mounted to sensitise Kenyans with qualifications overseas to return home.

The report recommends that policies in various universities that cut across should be harmonised and made to be universally applicable to all universities.

These include staff promotion criteria, terms of service for senior academic and administrative staff, parallel programme funds distribution policy among others.

Additionally, the report says, the government should come up with age policy for recruitment of staff in universities.

"Currently universities have turned into safe havens for retiring civil servants and former researchers with masters degrees.

"This lot of staff cannot be sustainably trained nor be productive in academic life,” the report adds.

The report says the current situation in Kenyan public universities is a matter of concern regarding quality of their products.

It cites the ability of staff in universities to deliver the approved curriculum and the wanting facilities.

“There is a general concern that some of the lecturers that are engaged in various universities across the country are under-qualified and grossly unprofessional,” the report says.

CHEATING
Some lecturers do not show up for their classes when timetabled as they are engaged elsewhere.

“Some lecturers seem to be in the profession for the wrong reason; to make money rather than to serve their vocation,” it says. 

Such lecturers, the report says, move from institution to institution in the name of part-timing for money, at the expense of service delivery.

"A good number of the current breed of students, the report says, have shifted their responsibilities to other quotas.

"It is very normal for both undergraduate and postgraduate students to commission back street consultancies to work for them on their term papers, proposals and theses,” it says.

A typical master’s degree proposal with slides ready for presentation would go for between Sh15,000 and Sh50,000 depending on the complexity of the topic and data collection intricacies.

All these point to incompetent lecturers who have no expertise and time to guide and correct students.

“The decay in our university education system needs to be corrected through high level capacity building of lecturers, improvement of facilities and entrenchment of professionalism,” the chancellors’ report says.

It says many lecturers in the universities are holders of lower qualifications such as master’s degree, postgraduate diplomas than the prescribed doctorate degrees.

Lack of enough doctorate holders as teaching staff has impacted the institutions negatively in terms of under-performance in research and quality of graduates.