REMARKS FOR USE BY AMB. (DR.) AMINA MOHAMED, EGH, CAV, CABINET SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF EDUCATION, DURING THE INAUGURATION OF THE INTER-MINISTERIAL COMMITTEE ON UNIVERSITY EDUCATION REFORMS

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 I wish to most sincerely welcome you to this meeting. Your presence, despite the short notice, is testament of your commitment to serve in this important committee. Thank you very much. As you are all aware, vide Gazette Notice Number 3552 dated 17th April, 2018, I appointed each one of you to the Inter-Ministerial Committee on University Education. This is the first such committee to be set up in our country.

The raison d’etre of the Committee is to address emergent and fundamental issues that require urgent attention in our public Universities and constituent Colleges. These issues have been captured in the Committee’s Terms of Reference as follows:

  1.                 Review adequacy of capitation, income generation and institutional revenue and expenditure trends and determine a sustainable counter-offer for the 2017/2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement.

  1.                 Review and advice on the appropriate institutional and administrative structure for collective bargaining in public universities.

 

       iii.                Review governance and human resources management policies, practices and staffing

  1.                 Review the general security situation in public universities and advice on implication for teaching and learning.

  1.                 Review student enrolments for undergraduate and graduate programmes and advice on availability and adequacy of teaching, learning and accommodation facilities.

  1.                 Consider and review success and challenges of Module II Programmes in the development of university education and training and;

    vii.                Perform any other function incidental to attainment of competitive University education.

 Ladies and Gentlemen,

 Time has come to make resolute and necessary decisions to restore the quality of learning in our Universities. Because of the complacent nature of human interaction, most of these decisions will be unpopular today, but of immense value to the future of this country and especially, our children and institutional reputation.

Our University sector has experienced consistent teaching and learning disruptions owing to strikes since 1993. There is a very high probability that most young professionals in Kenya have experienced that disruption in the course of their University education. Although there has been a series of band-aid solutions, our engagement now will set in place mechanisms for an entire reorganization of this sector to cater for the needs of every player with the most important focus being restoring the quality and competitiveness of Kenya’s University Education and consequently, the caliber of our University professors and graduates.

 As you are aware, we are now into 50 days of an industrial action in our public Universities. Regrettably, this is the third strike in less than one year at the Universities. The impact of these perennial strikes has, to say the least, been disastrous. The image of our university education worldwide is taking a severe beating, our students are taking more than double the period required to complete academic programmes and employers are losing faith in the capacity of our graduates. It is therefore critical to re-evaluate the entire sector in order to effectively support the Government’s Big Four Agenda and Vision 2030 which require quality manpower and specifically, the future of our country.

 Ladies and Gentlemen,

 Our initial analysis shows that:

(i)        There is increasing lethargy among the teaching staff most of whom seldom attend lectures. This was in fact confirmed to me by Student leaders who were concerned about the quality of instruction they receive at universities.

(ii)      Module and university hopping. This dilutes the essential student-professor contact required in higher education.

(iii)    There is less than effective and efficient University Management. There are ongoing investigations into alleged diversion of resources meant for statutory payments into other purposes.

(iv)    Additionally, the quality of graduate programmes, which we rely on to build capacity of staff to teach in Universities, is at the lowest possible standard. I have recently put in place a policy that 70% of the PhD scholarships Kenya receives will go to applicants who will mandatorily get back to teach in our public Universities. This will ensure that we support personal development, which is currently non-existent, in our public universities.

These are some of the many challenges threatening to completely erode the credibility of our local Universities which were once the envy of the world.

I urge all Kenyans to disregard the urge to compromise to lower standards of higher education at the expense of quick fix solutions.

Critical questions for the Committee come to mind: is it time to classify our Universities according to their resource base, number of students, quality and relevance of their programmes among other indicators? Should we consider the effectiveness of grading our scholars based on different aspects that reflect their performance, including the introduction of the proposed tenure-tracks? Should we re-think the expansion programme of our Universities?

On the issue of the ongoing strike; I wish to state that traditionally, the Inter-Public Universities Councils Consultative Forum (IPUCCF) has negotiated with the trade unions, received their proposals and presented the same to the Ministry of Education and National Treasury to consult and agree on a counter offer. Previously, accepted counter offers were then executed by IPUCCF and Unions before registering the CBA at the Labour and Industrial Court.

 However, with the enactment of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010, and the subsequent creation of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), all salaries in the public sector must now be based on advice from the Commission. As you know, the SRC has carried out job evaluations in the public sector with a view to harmonizing salaries and benefits.Unfortunately, the SRC’s advice on the universities’ job evaluation has yet to be completed following the Unions’ move to contest the initial SRC proposals in Court. Additionally, the terms of SRC commissioners expired before completion of that exercise. A selection panel has now been appointed to recruit new Commissioners.

 Ladies and Gentlemen,

 Article 6 of the Constitution instructs us to drive governance on the back of cooperative government. The Ministry of Education is the custodian of our structures of learning. Other Ministries and agencies are custodians of labour relations, retirement benefits, human resources in the public service, public officer entitlements and finance. This Committee which is drawn from a cross-section of all these players will locate the role of each Ministry and enable a collaborative resolution to our immediate mandate: to determine a sustainable counter-offer for the 2017/2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The Committee’s terms of delivery are to undertake the assignment within a period of one month giving priority to determination of a counter-offer for the 2017/2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and to submit a Report within two weeks after the expiry of that period. I wish you the very best as you undertake this national duty.

 Thank you all.