By PATRICK AMUNAVI
Kenya’s Education Cabinet Secretary, Prof George Magoha, wants universities in the country to remain focused on their traditional core areas of strength in the academia curricula.
Citing Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), he says nobody can deny the fact that the institution 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.”
The professor is concerned with a trend he has observed among local universities where most of them have over the recent years abandoned concentrating on their strong fields of research and training, and instead deviated to all manner of programmes.
Institutions of higher learning, in his view, should desist from the negative trend of duplicating programmes offered in other universities and instead, strengthen their own traditional programmes.
Speaking at JKUAT Main Campus Juja on June 7, 2021 and accompanied by the Japanese Ambassador to Kenya Ryochi Horie, Prof Magoha 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).
On behalf of Kenyan government, Prof Magoha appreciated the Japanese government through JICA for the good work whose impact is evident at the university and across the country.
He describes the varsity as a ‘beacon of technology transfer and innovation’ saying universities must step up collaborations with other world class universities, including those of Japan to make a mark globally.
“As a ministry, we are proud of the fact that most of the top scientists at JKUAT are alumni of Japanese universities,” he says.
Ambassador Horie and his wife, Madam Yuko Horie, expressed their 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.”
He notes that Japanese government 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.
“Japan has not only cooperated with JKUAT for development of human resource but also for growth of agricultural sector in the country.”
According to him Kenya has faced an economic downturn with abrupt decline in numbers of tourists visiting the country due to Covid 19 pandemic.
In addition, the growth of agriculture as a key sector in Kenya’s economy will be essential for the recovery of the entire economy of the country.
The ambassador underscored the significance of the inaugurated building facility noting those students who will study there will become leaders of the agriculture sector and contribute to the promotion of country’s agribusiness.
In his brief, Amb Maalim Mahboub, the Chairman of Council assured both the CS and Ambassador of JKUAT’s commitment towards actualizing research initiatives for sustainable development.
Vice Chancellor, Prof Victoria Wambui Ngumi expressed her gratitude to JICA through the Africa-ai-Japan Project saying it has made JKUAT become the best university in Kenya and in the region.
Despite the Covid 19 pandemic, JICA has continued to support the implementation of the AFRICA-ai-JAPAN activities at JKUAT over the financial year 2020/2021.
According to the VC during the period, 37 research innovation projects were funded including long term multi-disciplinary and inter-departmental projects and one senior researcher’s projects supporting JKUAT/PAUSTI 26 students.
Others are eight post-doctorate support, two Covid-19 emergency fund in addition to 72 other projects supported through seed funding for PAUSTI students which is an important “catalyst and synergy required to make JKUAT a regional hub in research for development. “
Besides this, JICA supported in procurement and installation of Wi-Fi connection infrastructure at the university enabling it to be rank top among all Kenyan universities in terms of “usage of the KENET Remote Teaching Platform.”
“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,” she says.
As part of its efforts and resolve to strengthen the capacity for teaching and research, a total of six 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 VC says 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 three state-of-art labs, six 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.
Those 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).
Others were Prof. Benard Ikua( Administration), Prof. Robert Kinyua (Academic Affairs), Registrars, Principal of College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences (COANRE), Prof. David Mburu, Deans from the COANRE among others.
Edited by Mwakera Mwajefa