Leadership crisis: Resist attempts to politicise varsities

Monday, January 20th, 2020 21:13 |
Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha. Photo/PD/File

The University of Nairobi, the oldest and most prestigious of Kenya’s universities, is on the headlines—unfortunately for the wrong reasons. 

Of its many pace-setting ventures ranging from cutting-edge innovations and churning out outstanding alumni in socio-economic and political spheres, it’s about to earn the infamy of being unable to manage a transition. 

It now has two vice chancellors; one acting, the other, designate. This is an indictment on an institution that has produced governance and change management gurus. Could it be a case of a doctor being unable to diagnose and treat own ailment? 

Tragically, the leadership crisis at UoN is replicated across other universities and public institutions where patronage and ethnic considerations, rather than merit, drive the agenda. 

The leadership crisis, which is threatening to paralyse the institution, has sucked in other stakeholders, including the Education ministry, power brokers, business cartels, unions, students, the university senate and the council, which has since been dissolved by Education Cabinet secretary George Magoha over the VC appointment saga.

This is a perfect recipe for anarchy which could have ramifications on the management, quality of programmes and reputation of the university.

Yesterday, Magoha made a startling revelation that he was ordered by the President to dissolve the council for jumping the gun and naming VC without requisite consultation. 

This is worrying because universities are, by their own charter, independent entities.

But with the involvement of the Public Service Commission in interviewing process, they will find it hard to wriggle out of the invisible political hands that have captured many public institutions. 

It is, therefore, no wonder that talk about the process of naming the new VC being hijacked by political interests with an eye on the control of the university’s billions is emerging.

 Unless this is addressed, and attempts to politicise the management of the university resisted, this premier institution will drift into an abyss of decay. 

That partisan interests have captured public universities; the citadels of innovation, research and academia, is tragic. 

It speaks volumes of how low we have sunk as a society. But it is not too late to step back, reason and cleanse ourselves of the vices.

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