Education Cabinet Secretary Prof. George Magoha has asked universities in Kenya to remain focused on their traditional core areas of strength.
Citing the example of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), the Cabinet Secretary said, “No one can deny the fact that JKUAT is a very strong university when it comes to science and technology. I wish to encourage the university to strengthen itself along these fronts rather than digressing to the humanities and arts.”
Prof. Magoha decried a trend he has observed amongst local universities where, “Most Kenyan universities have over the recent years abandoned concentrating on their strong fields of research and training, and instead deviated to all manner of programmes.”
The Cabinet Secretary therefore called on all institutions of higher learning to “desist from the negative trend of duplicating programmes offered in other universities and instead, strengthen our traditional programmes.”
Prof. Magoha was speaking at Jomo Kenyatta university of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) Main campus Juja, Monday, June 7, 2021 where together with the Japanese Ambassador to Kenya, Mr. Ryoichi Horie, presided over the official inauguration of the university’s newly constructed multimillion state-of-the-art Agriculture Laboratory Building (ALB) that was constructed by the Japanese Government through the Japanese International Corporation Agency (JICA).
The Cabinet Secretary, on behalf of the Kenyan Government, appreciated “the Japanese Government through JICA for the good work whose impact he said is evident at JKUAT and across the country.”
While lauding JKUAT for being a “Beacon of technology transfer and innovation in Kenya,” the Cabinet secretary said “institutions of higher learning must step up collaborations with other world class universities, including those of Japan. As a Ministry, we are proud of the fact that most of the top scientists at JKUAT are alumni of Japanese universities.”
Prof. Magoha further challenged JKUAT Management to leverage on expertise resident within the university in various fields and form companies and bid for available tendering opportunities in government, emphasizing that President Uhuru Kenyatta was keen on creating self sustainability in local universities.
On his part the Japanese Ambassador to Kenya, H.E Ryoichi Horie, who was accompanied by his wife Madam Yuko Horie, expressed his gratitude to all the stakeholders involved in the “comprehensive completion and renovation of the building which has been carried out under the Africa –ai-Japan project.”
Ambassador Horie noted that Japan has developed very cordial relationship with JKUAT since the beginning of its establishment as a university in 1981, and paid tribute to all professionals and academics from both Japan and Kenya for their efforts that have earned JKUAT its current reputation.
He reiterated that “Japan has not only cooperated with JKUAT for development of human resource but also for growth of agricultural sector in the country.”
The Ambassador stated that due to Covid 19 pandemic, “Kenya has faced an economic downturn with abrupt decline in numbers of tourists visiting the country, adding, the growth of the agriculture as a key sector in Kenya’s economy would be essential for recovery of the entire economy of the country.”
He underscored the significance of the inaugurated building facility noting it is one of the seamless support for Kenya’s agricultural sector.
“I hope a lot of students who study at this building will become the leaders of the sector and contribute to promote Kenya’s agriculture business,” said the Ambassador.
The Chairman of Council Amb. (Eng) Mahboub Maalim appreciated the collaborative efforts of Kenya and Japan through the Ministry of Education and JICA for the implementation of the Africa-ai- Japan projects at JKUAT.
He assured both the Cabinet Secretary and the Japanese Ambassador to Kenya of JKUAT’s commitment towards actualizing research initiatives for sustainable development. He lauded the CS for “the great work he has done for the country while at the Kenya National Examination Council and the Ministry.”
The Vice Chancellor, Prof Victoria Wambui Ngumi conveyed her deepest gratitude to JICA who through the AFRICA-ai-JAPAN Project “have continually demonstrated their long term commitment to support JKUAT to become the best University in Kenya and in the region.”
Despite the Covid19 pandemic, JICA has continued to support the implementation of the AFRICA-ai-JAPAN activities at JKUAT over the financial year 2020/2021.
The Vice Chancellor reported that during the period, 37 research innovation projects were funded including long term multi-disciplinary and inter-departmental projects (1), senior researcher’s projects supporting JKUAT/PAUSTI students (26), post-doctorate support (8) and Covid-19 emergency fund (2), in addition to 72 other projects supported through seed funding for PAUSTI students, which she stated is an important “catalyst and synergy required to make JKUAT a regional hub in research for development. “
Besides research, the Vice Chancellor also said JICA’s support in procurement and installation of Wi-Fi connection infrastructure in JKUAT enabled the university to rank top amongst all Kenyan Universities in terms of “Usage of the KENET Remote Teaching Platform.”
She added that “JKUAT students are able to attend classes regardless of their proximity to the Main Campus, thus reducing congestion in lecture halls while observing other Public Health Guidelines as provide by the Government of Kenya.”
As part of our efforts and resolve to strengthen the capacity for teaching and research, a total of 6 members of staff from JKUAT have been nominated and selected for long term training in Japan (1PhD + 5 MSc) under JICA scholarship. This will reduce the training budget for JKUAT while creating a stable foundation for JKUAT to excel in her core mandate.
The Vice Chancellor said AFRICA-ai-JAPAN Project has become an indispensable beacon for connecting JKUAT to global partners including Universities in ASEAN Countries, citing joint research projects that have been established with Universities in Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam over the last one year.
The Agricultural Laboratory Building (ALB) has 3 state-of-art labs, 6 modern postgraduate lecture halls, and a number of offices. This will improve the teaching and research infrastructure in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Present during the function included Council members; Dr. Salome Gichura, Tom Mshindi, Mr. Joseph Gitonga and Gabriel Lengoiboni, Chief Representative of JICA, Mr. Hajime Iwama, Chief Advisor, Africa-ai-Japan Project, Prof. Hiroshi Koaze, Deputy Vice Chancellors’; Prof. Mary Abukutsa (Research, Production and Extension), Prof. Benard Ikua( Administration), Prof. Robert Kinyua (Academic Affairs), Principal of College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences, Prof. David Mburu, Deans and Registrars, among others.