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Kenya: Veteran Engineer Defends Registration Standards

Professor Francis Gichaga

A member of the Kenyan Engineering Registration Board (ERB) has defended the body’s decision not to register graduates from some universities – saying that the move was necessary to maintain international standards in the engineering profession.

The Chancellor of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Prof Francis Gichaga, says that institutions are to blame as they fail to involve the board from the formative stages of the engineering curriculum for their universities.

Prof Gichaga said that some of those who are involved in the curriculum development are not engineers, although they may have a  Philosophy of Doctorate (PhD) in a related field to appreciate the importance of ERB registration.

“ERB standards are international,” said the former University of Nairobi VC, who is a registered civil engineer. During an interview with The Global Herald, Prof Gichaga explained that the body will not bend to accommodate curricula that have not met the requirements set down by ERB.

However, the chancellor said “ERB has clauses for registration of all classes of engineers and technicians from diploma to degree.”

“Every one wants to be registered as an engineer,” he pointed out, “because of the benefit that comes with it.” Thus “there is a temptation of taking the easy path.”

He called the public to ensure that they are utilizing registered engineers in the design and supervision of their projects. “When a project is supervised by a registered engineer, if, in case a problem arises, the owner can take the engineer to ERB – if proven incompetent he or she will be de-registered and a legal action can be taken.”

“Universities, particularly the public universities, have established new degree courses without necessarily consulting the various professional bodies and industries among other stakeholders,” said Thomas Owino, chair of the National Engineering Students Council as well as the Engineering Students Association of the University of Nairobi.

Owino, who was speaking during this year’s annual Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (IEEE) – Engineering Students Exhibition, said a case point is the ongoing impasse between the ERB and various universities over the accreditation of their engineering degree courses.

“This always leaves the students in a state of limbo. We therefore do feel there is need for broader ‘all-inclusive’ consultations bringing on board all the interested stakeholders,” he said.

He challenged members from the various strategic bodies to come up with recommendations that should guide the formulation of proper policy with regard to curriculum development in engineering.

Nonetheless ERB received its share of blame for not being in resonance with emerging technologies. Some of the participants at the IEEE conference, who were lecturers drawn from all Kenyan institutions of higher education offering engineering, technology and science disciplines, said the body is living in the past as it only recognizes traditional engineering courses.

However, all the participants agreed that the sector needs to be regulated as it has suffered from bad publicity following unprofessional jobs resulting in building collapses, uncompleted projects and graduates from the universities who are not ready for the job market.

Dr Devit Desai, Chairman of Linkage of Industry With Academia (LIWA) and CEO of Centurion Systems Ltd said there is need to strengthen the linkage between the industry and the academia to mold engineering and technology graduates up to task.

“The industry will support its infrastructure to the academia particularly in training engineers,” Dr Desai said, since some of the equipments can not be afforded by the universities are available in our industries.

About Robert Okemwa Onsare

Robert Okemwa Onsare
Robert Onsare is pursuing Electronics Technology at the University of Eastern Africa, Baraton. He is a Cluster Strategy trained facilitator by Kenya's National Economic and Social Council (NESC). Mr Onsare has been an incubation student at the University of Nairobi, School of Engineering, FabLab, a venture project of the university and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is a member of the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) and a published poet. Mr Onsare is based in Kenya.

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