Let’s put more into encouraging private university investment

Saturday March 31 2012

Kenyans be proud to learn that their country is the regional hub of private universities.

The fact that in the past 30 years the number of private universities in Kenya has grown from only two in 1980 to 27 currently, speaks volumes about the entrepreneurship spirit of Kenyans.

With an enrolment of 40,000 students, private universities account for at least 20 per cent of all students who are pursuing university education.

Many factors have made private universities popular in Kenya. The increase in the number of students seeking private university education has been catalysed by the inability of public institutions to absorb all qualified school leavers.

It was estimated that by 1999, at least 30,000 students were seeking higher education abroad.

This was at a cost of whopping Ksh40 billion (close to $500 million).

Currently, more than 35,000 qualified students are locked out of subsidised higher education even with the increasingly popular self-sponsored degree programmes.

Indeed, it is private universities that have helped reduce gender and class imbalance as far as access to higher education is concerned.

The other reason why Kenyans have taken to private universities is that these institutions have managed to run on schedule.

Investment in private university education will supplement the government’s efforts in providing higher education.

These reasons explain why we must address challenges facing private university education. Key among these is funding.

The government should waive taxes on land, learning, teaching and research materials meant for provision and expansion of university education.

On their part, these institutions must invest in qualified research and teaching staff besides quality courses that will propel this region, and indeed Africa, to the next level of development.

Kenyan students and their parents must have a change of attitude towards private universities.

They must discard the erroneous belief that public universities offer superior education.

If these challenges are addressed urgently, Kenya can become an international centre for university education.

Kimani Wa Njuguna
Gatundu, Kenya

No praise for Wade, his time was up

Some people have praised former Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade for conceding defeat.

This, after he sought a third term against the Constitution, and failed to win an outright majority in the first round.

By virtue of his biological and political  age, what Wade has been into is tantamount to the saying Omugurusi kurwanira obuhoro n’abaijukuru (a grandfather fighting over breakfast with his grandchildren).

Wade, one of the architects of Nepad, slipped when he spent millions of dollars on a monument amid poverty in his nation.

We give kudos to the Senegalese, whose tranquillity nurtured during the reign of Leopold Senghor was beginning to be ruffled by Wade and his cronies.

Brought up in a culture that demands that elders be respected, I won’t say much against Wade, only that as part of his retirement, he may need some months once in a year to live among the Masaai, to rediscover the African roots and roles of elders, something that is being eroded fast elsewhere on the continent.

Matsiko DB Kahunga
Kampala

Help Burundi out of this poverty

I refer to “Burundi corruption a threat to trade in EA” (March 26-April 1).

Burundi is arguably the poorest and most unstable country within the community.

It requires to be nurtured carefully by the rest of the member states in order to catch up.

This is best done at the bilateral level where, say, Kenya extends favourable trade terms to Burundi, offers subsidised refresher courses at the Kenya Institute of Administration for Burundi’s civil servants to inculcate a sense of integrity, while Kenya and Uganda could offer scholarships to gifted Burundi children to study in the countries’ schools.

Other avenues include preferential clearance of goods destined to or from Burundi at the ports of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam and also faster transit times so that the landed cost of goods is lowered.

Joint military exercises could also be considered with a view to enabling the Burundian army to have a more robust outlook on the role of the military as a national force, rather than the narrow ethnic considerations currently held.

By extending all these to Burundi, the rest of EAC will help the country move forward.

Franklin N. Thuranira
Chogoria, Kenya