Prof George Magoha took over at the Education ministry in March with characteristic aplomb, promising major reforms across the sector.
In July, he announced an overhaul of universities, which he said were mired in a myriad irregularities to the detriment of learners.
Rightly so, he cited duplication of courses, unnecessary and unplanned expansion and tribalism, poor quality of degrees, financial impropriety and poor teaching methods as some of the problems at many public universities.
However, to date, there is little or nothing to show for the pledge to revitalise the institutions. The momentum for positive change has gone cold and it is business as usual at the universities.
What raised expectations that at last change was coming is the fact that Prof Magoha has spent most of his working life at the university, rising to the helm of the country’s oldest and biggest, the University of Nairobi, where he served for 10 years as the vice-chancellor.
University management is, therefore, his domain and there is no better person to lead the change there than him.
CENTRES OF EXCELLENCE
Therefore, Prof Magoha should not let his guard down.
He started on the right track by meeting all the VCs of public universities to discuss the problems afflicting the institutions and tasked them to come up with home-grown solutions and suggestions to the crisis in higher education.
Their deliberations were not made public. Meanwhile, the institutions are preparing to enrol about 100,000 Form Four candidates who will complete their Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examinations this month.
Universities are the citadels of academic excellence. They exist to create and impart knowledge and innovate and drive industry and entrepreneurship.
They provide students with the skills to compete in increasingly global and competitive workplaces.
To achieve these goals, however, they need to be run professionally, maintain high academic standards and concentrate on knowledge creation and dissemination.
They cannot produce cutting-edge research or top-notch graduates if they are steeped in a financial mire as a result of poor management, offer courses that the market does not need or engender impunity through failure to follow stringent academic processes in the award of degrees.
Kenyan parents spend their hard-earned money to educate their children in universities, hoping they will graduate with useful degrees that can give them opportunities to lead meaningful lives full of promise.
Prof Magoha must, therefore, push the reform agenda to the logical end.
He has the support of the public and the government to do what it takes to revitalise the institutions and put them in good stead to compete internationally.