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Why Olive Mugenda knows best


Universities in Kenya have increased in number and grown at an exponential rate. This has been spurred by the government’s policy to set up a university in every county. This has created intense competition between universities, both public and private,

Granted, public universities have higher student numbers than private universities but they have been unable to translate this into quality and meaningful development within their schools. Most public campuses have stretched the amenities; accommodation is not up to standard and doesn’t meet the steadily rising number of students, classes are congested and lack basic furniture, libraries cannot serve the populace well enough, there are not enough lecturers et cetera. With such poor learning conditions it is only logical that the quality of education reduces and therefore no shock when our universities churn out half-baked graduates.

However there is a glimmer of hope that has emerged in the form of Professor Olive Mugenda, Vice-Chancellor of Kenyatta University. Prof Mugenda has transformed the once constituent college of the University of Nairobi into a reputable institution that is revered and respected by many. Kenyatta University used to play second fiddle to the University of Nairobi, not anymore. It is now competing favourably with UoN and may soon be ranked as one of the best universities in the region.

Professor Mugenda, who was named among the top entrepreneurs by Ernest & Young has been a breath of fresh air in public institution management. She was recently named among the top entrepreneurs by Ernest & Young. Anybody who has been to Kenyatta University will tell you that something is always being built and this stems from her belief that public universities cannot be improved until infrastructure also improves.

Individuals of a certain school of thought have argued that she runs the school like a business and have cried wolf over it. When one comes to think of it you wonder whether running institutions of higher learning like businesses is such a bad thing.

Private sector collaboration is one area where Professor Mugenda has excelled and is unsurpassed. She discovered earlier on that Universities could not be properly developed with the meagre hand outs that were coming from the government so she engaged the private sector, who were more than happy to help. What many have not realized is that most of the development projects that have and are taking place at Kenyatta University have come as a result of the deep ties the university has developed with the private sector. One good example is the Chandaria Business Innovation centre in partnership with the Chandaria Foundation

Professor Mugenda represents a new crop of education managers that have CEO mindset rather than the teachers. They represent a new era of visionary leaders that will hopefully transform and develop the public education system into a worthwhile investment.

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