The low level of development witnessed in emerging economies is directly linked to inadequate investment in research, technology, innovation and commercialization. This position was reiterated by Hon. Prof. Margaret Kamar, Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology Main Campus, Juja.
The answer to this developmental backwardness partially lies in the University Bill 2012 currently on the floor of the parliament. The Bill which seeks to harmonize and streamline the establishment and management of both public and private universities equally proposes to increase the national research budget from the current 0.04% to 2% of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This envisaged percentage allocations will double the United Nations recommended threshold of 1%.
Prof. Kamar, in a speech read by Dr. Areba Nyan’gate further lauded JKUAT’s commitment in actualizing applied research since its inception. The Minister observed that JKUAT researchers had set a good example in the country in carrying out functional research, “leading to the development of high quality innovations, products and services. Indeed, am proud to note that for years, this institution has managed to instil a culture of research and innovation among staff and students as was evidenced in the last Tech Expo and the 7th Scientific Conference.”
The Minister was speaking during the 20th Graduation Ceremony in which 3133 graduands were conferred with degrees and awarded diploma certificates in various disciplines.
While presiding over the Graduation Ceremony, the Chancellor, Prof. Francis Gichaga commended the University for introducing new academic programmes in Bioengineering, Development Studies and Pharmacology, slated to steer the realization of Vision 2030.
The Chancellor announced that the University had broken new ground in training leaders to meet the demands of the new dispensation, whose kingpin is the devolved system of governance. “It is hoped that these leaders will vie for various elective positions in their respective counties in the forthcoming general election 2013 will provide the much needed quality leadership that will promote justice, peace and social cohesion before and after the elections.”
While acknowledging that the accelerated intake programme had enhanced access to higher education, The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Mabel Imbuga through a speech read by Prof. Esther Kahangi, noted it has also come with additional infrastructural and personnel challenges. “The university has enrolled a total of 4,284 candidates for the 2012/2013 Academic Year”, noted Prof. Imbuga. The Vice Chancellor appealed to the government to release requisite funds amounting to Ksh. 1.1 billion to cater for this accelerated intake.
According to Prof. Imbuga, the renaissance of higher education in Africa is on the right path following the establishment of Pan African University whose East African Institute of Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation, domiciled at JKUAT, admitted 60 pioneering graduate students in November, 2012.