Third Eye

Universities critical in realisation of Big Four, SDGs

Tuesday, July 13th, 2021 00:00 |
President Uhuru Kenyatta. Photo/PD/PSCU

Prof Teresa Akenga       

Universities have been recognised globally as the drivers of the new world economic order. 

Developed nations have achieved their status primarily based on the studies, researches and innovations by their universities. 

The governments have invested heavily in higher education. The research findings and innovations in these countries are priceless and continue to undergo modification.

Emerging economies have learnt the art and act and currently rely heavily on their universities and technical training institutions to propel their economies.

However, countries with the least investment on universities and technical training institutions continue to witness a vicious cycle of poverty and economic stagnation.

Without universities, there would be little meaningful development, innovations and achievements witnessed in various fields such as health, agriculture, manufacturing, aviation, infrastructure, housing and the environment. 

This premise is reinforced by the 2009 UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education in Paris that adopted the resolution that higher education is a public good and gave special focus to the challenges and opportunities for the revitalisation of higher education in Africa.

The resolution was adopted in the context of an enormous expansion in university participation since 1990, including across the developing world and especially in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Sub-Sahara Africa was expected to use the technological advancement and innovations in and from the university to grow their economies and address emerging concerns in various fields.

The United Nations, in its previous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were envisaged to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems, gave preference to primary and secondary education.

But during the Barcelona Conference, it was agreed that universities would play a bigger role in the achievement of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Contribution to sustainable development has, therefore, become one of the most important roles of higher education institutions.

After 57 years of independence, it is time Kenya took stock of how our universities have responded to various economic and development challenges.

We must also look at how the government has invested in the university education sector. 

A recent educational report by the Commission of Higher Education revealed the challenges to accessing and difficulties of maintaining standards of quality and efficiency with marginal resources.

The mission of most universities comprises of a moral obligation to contribute to the intellectual, cultural, and economic betterment of society in general. 

As the Kenya government implements the President’s Big Four agenda, Vision 2030 and AU 2063, universities are central to the realisation of the new economic dispensation envisaged in these policies.

That is why Vision 2030 policy document identified Technical and Vocational Education and Training Institutions (TVETs) as the anchor of its economic pillar through science, technology and innovation to boost industrialisation.

The quality of our education system relies heavily on our universities where, for instance, teacher training often takes place in the universities, while faculties of education are the ones that conduct research and provide expertise on pedagogy, curricula and assessment as well as educational planning and management. This explains why the country adopted the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC).

University research is driving major trends in education, such as the shift to learning outcomes, and investment priorities in education have been changing because of research by higher education. 

Previously, we relied on education for labour but emerging dynamics require a move beyond employment through skills development to enable learners to be job creators through innovations.

 This can only be achieved through university and technical and vocational education training institutions.  — The writer is the Vice Chancellor, University of Eldoret

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