EA Universities Guide

I’m glad I moved from public to private university

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Daystar University's main entrance at its Athi River campus. PHOTO | COSMAS MUTINDA  

By VELMA GORE

Posted  Thursday, April 14   2016 at  09:00

In Summary

  • Thanks to that decision to seek a more holistic education experience, I feel better equipped and ready to face the world, utilise opportunities that are presented to me and to deal with challenges that may come my way.

I sat the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) in 2011, and scored an average grade of A-. Naturally, because I had straight As in mathematics and science subjects — chemistry, biology and physics — everyone kept nudging me towards medicine and engineering as my major at university. But I had no particular interest in any of these fields and thus did not conform to their expectations.

Initially, I wanted to pursue a Bachelor of Science in mathematics. What held me back, however, was the fact that I was not aware of the vast opportunities that would be available to me after I completed my studies.

In my ignorance — which I attribute to lack of mentorship at the time I needed it most — I gave up on my dream to pursue higher education in mathematics. Instead, I decided to play safe, and as a result, I applied for a BSc in economics and finance in one of the leading public universities in Kenya.

The main reason I gravitated towards economics was that it had a significant amount of mathematical application in the course work, which was what I was really interested in. What further raised my interest in the course was its ability to integrate various aspects of learning with the end goal of problem-solving and making decisions for a better society.

In my zeal to find my element and change something in the community, I decided to enrol for a degree in economics, which I have grown to love.

Having performed fairly well in the national examination, I was assured of a slot in the competitive Joint Admissions Board (JAB) placements. However, I decided to enrol into a public university a semester earlier as a self-sponsored student, because I did not want to wait so long to join university.

A semester later, my admission letter from JAB came in, and I had been selected for the same course that I had already been admitted for. Because JAB-selected students enjoy subsidised tuition fee, all I had to do to enjoy these benefits was to write a letter to the academic registrar seeking acknowledgement of my shift from a self-sponsored to government-sponsored student.

The process got more complicated when I tried to transfer my grades from my self-sponsored account to my new JAB account and I had to go through many processes and endure long waits, but finally, it got sorted out.

In my second year, I began getting frustrated by the quality of education I was receiving. My lectures were attended by hundreds of students, and often I had to run to class up to an hour earlier to secure a seat at the front of the lecture room, where I could hear what the lecturer was saying and see what he or she would write on the board.

The large number of students made it impossible for the lecturers to interact with us at a personal level or to properly mark our examination scripts.

My turning point was when I went to sit a paper during the end-of-semester exams, and the scores of students from my class were locked out of the exam rooms as the lecturers claimed that the rooms were already full.

It was not until the exam had come to an end two hours later that somebody came around to handle the situation, which saw us sit the same paper long after our colleagues.

Culture shock

This experience made me wish for more conducive learning environment that would help me achieve my full potential. My mother and I decided that I should move to a private university near Nairobi.

The university we chose was somewhat of a culture shock to me. Classes had a maximum of 60 students, enabling the lecturers to interact with us at a personal level. They knew our names! This was not what I was used to.

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