The curtains have finally come down on the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Mabel Imbuga’s tenure that began in 2008. She leaves the office having served a maximum term of 10 years at the helm of the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), thus becoming the institution’s first Vice Chancellor to finish two – 5 year terms.
When Prof. Imbuga – again the first female Vice Chancellor of a technical public university assumed the reigns of steering JKUAT – one of the things she set out to do was to “re-position the institution as a respected world class university of science and technology that could make socio-economic impact on the society.”
In her comprehensive exit seminar presentation titled: A Decade of Academic Excellence, Research and Innovation for Development, delivered to the university community and other stakeholders, Friday, July 27, 2018, Prof. Imbuga highlighted the challenges and milestones that have distinguished and characterized JKUAT as the country’s leading training, research and technological institution under her decade-long stewardship (2008–2018).
Addressing the audience that included; University Chancellor, Prof. Geoffrey Ole Maloiy, Juja Member of Parliament Hon. Francis Waititu, Principal Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Prof. Hamadi Boga, the University Council led by the Chairman, Prof Paul Kanyari, staff and students, the Vice Chancellor said, when she took over, “The University had enormous potential in agriculture, engineering and technology. The challenge then was to rally the best talents under a responsive leadership. I am glad that dream became a reality.”
That reality has been manifested in several areas: First, JKUAT adopted an industry looking posture in its teaching and research programmes that enabled the University to produce highly trained graduates who excelled in formal employment and entrepreneurship.
Later, the University attracted top students leading to increased enrollment from 10, 650 in 2008 to over 42, 000 in 2017. This year, Prof Imbuga reported, 5000 students sought direct admission to JKUAT as their preferred university under the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service.
Endowed with a vibrant faculty and talented student population, JKUAT has rolled out several innovations necessitating the establishment of an Industrial Park in 2013 to harness innovations into commercially viable products.
The Industrial Park has been instrumental in supporting the government to mainstream ICT in education through the Digital Literacy Programme. JKUAT managed to assemble, distribute and commission a total of 329,034 for use by standard one pupils in 7256 primary schools in 21 counties.
Perhaps the strongest anchor to Prof. Imbuga’s tenure was re-positioning JKUAT as a truly global university. The institution competitively won the bid to host the African Union- led Pan African University Institute for Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation (PAUSTI) with current enrollment of 364 students from 38 African countries.
JKUAT hosts the International Maritime Organization’s Maritime Technology Cooperation Centre for Africa, as well as the Ksh. 3 billion China-funded Sino-Africa Joint Research Centre, that aims to strengthen environmental and biodiversity conservation.
During the decade, the University implemented various development initiatives at national and county levels, aimed at harnessing JKUAT innovations and technologies for wealth creation and livelihood transformation.
However, Prof. Imbuga has not realized these milestones without challenges: Faced with diminishing capitation from government, Prof. Imbuga devised innovative resource mobilization measures including encouraging faculty to draft competitive research funding proposals.
Speakers at the function where the JKUAT Strategic Plan (2018–2022) was also unveiled paid homage to Prof. Imbuga’s successful decade in leadership:
In his tribute, Chancellor Maloiy said, “The Japanese initiated this university and have supported the Pan African University. They have worked very well with Prof. Imbuga. We wish her well,” and encouraged staff, alumni to reach out to her for help.
The Chancellor regretted that retiring professors were not being recognized and challenged Kenyan universities to emulate Maseno University which has established the Emeritus Professor position and appointed Prof. B.A Ogot as an Emeritus Professor, the only one in the country.
Chairman of Council, Prof. Kanyari, paid glowing tribute to the good work Prof. Imbuga has achieved for JKUAT. “We appreciate the support the Vice Chancellor has given the Council. Prof. Imbuga is a serious worker, a good listener. She is persistent in what she sets out to do and she has achieved many things. As Council, we are very happy for her achievements which have made our work easier.”
Prof. Kanyari urged the university community to “pull together in the same direction and embrace dialogue in resolving issues,” while on his part, Prof. Boga appreciated Prof. Imbuga for mentoring him. “She supported me and what we did at Taita Taveta University during transition. There is no institution that contributed better than JKUAT.”
The Principal Secretary challenged universities to take the lead in efforts to re-invent the University of the Future, noting, the ability to re-invent lies with the university itself through the scholars. He cited the current model of running universities which he said, needed to be re-looked at because it was unsustainable.
Legislator Waititu lauded the university under the leadership of Prof. Imbuga for doing so much for the community, and wished the Vice Chancellor well and the university at large.
Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration) Prof. Victoria Ngumi spoke on behalf of her colleagues and acknowledged Prof. Imbuga, whom she stated, had worked with all of them for over ten years dating back to the days of Faculty of Science.
“We are wondering what is going to happen to us when she leaves? We have worked together so well and you have taught us well. We hope to apply the skills and lessons we have learnt from you, said Prof. Ngumi.
Union representatives from UASU, KUSU, KUDHEIHA and JKUSA conveyed their best wishes and appreciated the support they have received from Prof. Imbuga’s administration.
Prof. Imbuga thanked the students, staff, management and the council for giving her great support and appealed to them to continue serving with dedication in the best interest of the JKUAT Brand.
Quoting Lucille Boll, Prof. Mabel Imbuga ended her presentation thus: “I would rather regret the things I have done than regret the things I have not done.”
And as the sun sets on her tenure, Imbuga’s head is held high as she leaves behind an iconic legacy of an institution on the launch pad ready for takeoff as a world class teaching, research, innovation and entrepreneurial university.