The Chancellor of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Prof. Joseph Mathu Ndung’u, has appealed to the government and industry players to support further development, uptake and utilization of inventions and innovations churned by institutions of higher learning in the country.
Prof. Ndung’u said the year 2020 has posed many challenges, adding, “Covid-19 challenges also presented opportunities for the institutions to demonstrate their leadership in providing sustainable solutions to mitigate the pandemic.”
The Chancellor who is also the Executive Director of Executive Director of the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), Kenya, spoke when he officiated at the 35th JKUAT and 6th Pan African University Institute for Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation (PAUSTI) joint graduation ceremony, Friday, December 18, 2020 at JKUAT Main Campus.
The theme of the graduation was: Refocusing Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship for Excellence in Higher Education in the Era of COVID-19.” Over 2688 candidates from JKUAT and PAUSTI graduated at the ceremony, the first to be held virtually in compliance with Covid-19 safety and health restrictions.
The Chancellor lauded faculty and students for their remarkable contributions leading to a innovations including mechanical ventilators, automatic solar-powered hand washing machine and Covid-19 contact tracing software application.
“I congratulate all innovators for developing the innovations. I urge our government and industry players to support further development, uptake and utilization of these inventions.” Prof. Ndung’u said.
On partnerships, the Chancellor appreciated JICA and DAAD for supporting JKUAT through Africa–ai–Japan Phase II project to enhance development of human resources in science, technology and innovation as well as the DAAD-funded collaboration between JKUAT and Technical University of Munich to boost research in sustainable energy and entrepreneurship.
He challenged the graduands to face life with confidence by applying the knowledge and skills they have acquired.
Education Cabinet Secretary, Prof. George Magoha said, “Learning institutions have had to align their operations to conform to requisite Ministry of Health protocols” and commended JKUAT for undertaking various initiatives to ensure continuity of operations in the face of restrictions occasioned by the pandemic.
He further said, funding of universities is a challenge and urged the institutions to expand the scope of income generation and minimize operational costs.
“As an immediate measure, online engagements should be enhanced at all levels of operations, said the Cabinet Secretary in remarks read on his behalf by the Director, Research, Science & Technology in the Ministry, Dr. Gideon Kivengea.
He told the graduands to uphold integrity and professionalism.
African Union Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology, H.E. Prof. Sarah Anyang’ Agbor thanked the Kenya Government and host University as well as AU member states for facilitating the education of young Africans.
The AU Commissioner hailed the PAUSTI PhD and Masters graduands totaling to 45 from 20 African countries, adding that “they were effectively prepared to offer lasting solutions to the challenges facing our continent.”
Prof. Agbor stated: “Agenda 2063 recognizes that Africa’s sustained growth, competitiveness and economic transformation will require investments in new technologies and innovations, and the spawning ground for such developments is our education, training and research institutions.”
In his maiden address, Amb. (Eng.) Mahboub Maalim Mohamed thanked President Uhuru Kenyatta for appointing him to serve as the Chairman of the University Council.
He was pleased with the gradual resumption of operations and the holding of a graduation ceremony under the current circumstances engendered by Covid-19.
“On behalf of my Council, I pay special tribute to the University Management, staff and students for staying the course despite the challenges caused by the pandemic,” Amb. Maalim said.
He used the occasion to announce the completion of new infrastructure projects that were ready for use, such as Human Anatomy Laboratory, COHES Skills Laboratory and the COHRED Building, in addition to the JICA-funded Agriculture Laboratory Building to be handed over to the University in 2021.
The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi, informed the congregation that for the third consecutive year, JKUAT has attracted the highest number of first year admissions amongst public universities through the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service. She attributed students’ preference for JKUAT to the quality of academic programmes that meet industry needs as well as regulatory requirements.
Prof. Ngumi stated that in order to complement government efforts in fighting Covid-19, the university had trained health workers from 21 counties on health informatics and data analytics.
“The University also served as a national quarantine center and is currently a key player at the National Technical Committee on Covid-19, in addition to various innovations developed by staff and students” said, Prof. Ngumi.
She appealed to all graduands to justify the investment the stakeholders have made in their education by applying the knowledge they have for their own good and that of the society.
The ceremony was attended by Council members; Dr. Salome Gichura, Gabriel Lengoiboni and Joseph Gitonga, Pan African University Rector, Prof. Belay Kassa, Director (HRST), African Union Commission, Dr. Mahama Ouedraogo, PAUSTI Director, Prof. Gabriel Magoma, Deputy Vice Chancellors and Deans.