, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 2 – President Mwai Kibaki has urged Kenyan graduates to embrace the East African Community, saying the regional economic bloc offers them increased opportunities.
The President appealed to the graduates to be outward looking and said that a new era of the East African Common Market Protocol was ushered in on Thursday.
President Kibaki said with the commencement of the Common Market, opportunities available to the country’s graduates would continue to increase.
“Therefore, your world will be as narrow as you make it or as wide as you want it. I urge you to think beyond our borders and exploit opportunities within the wider East African region and the rest of the world,” he said.
The President was speaking on Friday at Kenyatta University where he presided over the institution’s 28th Graduation Ceremony.
During the occasion, President Kibaki was installed as the university’s Chancellor and conferred with an honorary degree of Doctor of Education (Honoria Causa) for distinguished accomplishments in education, economic growth and poverty eradication initiatives among others.
The President, at the same time, challenged Kenyan graduates, as scholars, to play a role in shaping the country’s destiny by providing practical solutions to the problems facing the country.
He also challenged institutions of higher learning in the country to continuously re-align their programmes to cater for the needs of the society.
The Head of State emphasised the need for universities to adjust their programmes in order to respond to the challenges of quality and relevance.
“We must, in particular, focus on harnessing science, technology and innovation in order to stimulate the technological and industrial transformation of our country,” President Kibaki said.
He pointed out that the Government acknowledged that provision of high quality education was important to the country’s overall development.
In this regard, President Kibaki said the Government would continue to invest more resources in education in order to realise the critical mass of skilled human resource.
Noting that the demand for university education is higher than the available places, the President said that the Government was addressing the challenge and has over the last three years increased intake of Government sponsored students in public universities from 10,000 to 20,000.
The Head of State assured Kenyans that the Government, through the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology, was doing all it can to further address the challenge, adding that his Government was keen on well planned expansion of access to university education and training.
“Today, we have seven public universities, thirteen public university colleges and 24 private universities,” the Head of State said.
He disclosed that the Government would be establishing two more university colleges shortly and plans are underway to establish the first Kenyan Open University to allow for increased university education access.
The President added that the Government had also increased the budget for the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology from Sh27 billion last year to Sh34 billion in this year’s budget.
Said the President: “We have also identified higher education, science and technology as a priority sector during our discussions with our development partners and more support is likely to flow to that sector.”
Appreciating the efforts Kenyan universities are putting in place to utilise resources more efficiently and to generate income that goes to augment what the Government has allocated, President Kibaki noted that universities were able to generate over Sh15 billion last year.
Besides establishment of more universities across the country, the President said the Government is also restructuring the entire technical, industrial and vocational training sector.
“Plans are underway to establish new national polytechnics. The target is to have at least one per Province,” the Head of State said.
President Kibaki pointed out that the process of building new model technical training institutes in the country is also making good progress.
Further, the President said the Government was establishing centres of excellence with modern workshops and equipment in existing technical training institutions all over the country.
Congratulating the 1,902 graduands, President Kibaki reminded them that they were entering a rapidly globalized world and knowledge-based society that required a competitive edge in the way they apply the knowledge and skills learnt at the university.
He therefore urged them to bring creativity and innovation to every field that they will work in, saying gone are the days when a degree automatically secured one a job.
“You are, therefore, called upon to make use of your degree to create employment not only for yourself but also for others,” the President said.
President Kibaki urged the graduands to remain focused on their goals in life and apply the virtues of hard work so as to succeed in their future endeavours.
The President commended Kenyatta University for making good progress through infrastructural development and establishment of more campuses to cater for the increasing demand for university places.
Speaking during the occasion, Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister William Ruto said his ministry was consulting with universities and other stakeholders on the possibilities of introducing a University Infrastructural Development Bond to raise funds for expansion of the existing facilities in the institutions.
The Minister observed that expansion of the institutions of higher learning would increase opportunities for more qualifying youth to acquire skills relevant to the job market.
Mr Ruto disclosed that the Government was auditing the country’s human capital requirements to enable the institutions of learning to generate human resource relevant to the job market.
The Minister said currently more Government education bursaries and grants were being channeled to universities and middle college courses to support realisation of the country’s Vision 2030.
Thanking the Government for allocating more funds to universities this financial year, the Minister called on the management of public universities to ensure public resources were put into proper use with emphasis on quality and relevance of the courses offered.
The congregation was addressed by among others, the University Council Chairman Benson Wairegi and the Vice-Chancellor Prof. Oliva Mugenda.