Kenya’s institutions of higher learning have been challenged to produce graduates who are holistically developed as an answer to persistent problems facing Kenyan society.
Industrialist Dr Manu Chandaria challenged the academics to nurture thinkers who are capable of solving societal problems such as famine, the energy deficit, climate change and contextualize technology in building much needed infrastructure and creating job opportunities.
Dr Chandaria, who was speaking during this year’s Linkage of Industry With Academia (LIWA) conference, said “the standards of Kenya’s educational quality might be good but the capacity of the graduates is poor, not ready for the job market.”
He said there is an urgent need for the academic and industrialist to change their perceptions of one another in order to mould meaningful linkages. Recent research reveals that collaboration between industry and academia is important in accelerating development as it creates a platform for knowledge sharing.
Bureaucracy in institutions of higher learning was highlighted as one of the greatest hindrances in effecting improvements in line with global trends. It is thought that this has led to the wanting quality of Kenyan graduates.
For the millennium development goals (MDGs) and Vision 2030 to be realized, Dr Chandaria challenged Kenyans to “think and implement, don’t sit and talk”. The head of the Chandaria group invited citizens to turn prevailing challenges into opportunities to afford employment to 6 million Kenyan graduates from different levels who are yet to realize gainful employment.
Professor Harry Kanne, the Higher Education Secretary said that the government is devising strategies to increase primary school to university translation to 10 percent and that of Technical & Vocational Education and Training (TVET) to 30 percent on the premise of quality and relevancy. Prof Kanne said that the Ministry is calling upon universities to specialize in areas of their strength explaining, “when we teach too much we get lost of what is required in the industry, we need to look at competencies, innovativeness and integrity”.
The Minister envisions a situation where the universities and the industry learn from one another and carry out research together. He explained that to scale the efficiency of higher education in governance and management, one third of the university senate should be drawn from the private sector while in technical institutions the proportion should be two thirds.
The National Council of Science and Technology (NCST), secretary, Prof. Shaukat Abdulrazak said Vision 2030 gives a reason to strengthen LIWA as the universities need to move from the culture of publish-or-perish, to the frontier of researching, patenting, prototyping and commercializing end products and services.
“We need venture capitalists from the private sector,” Prof Shaukat said to transform prototypes into end products in mass production for the market. He said that university research should address more of society’s problems than is being experienced currently.
Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Vice Chancellor, Prof Mabel Imbuga said LIWA will enable the industry to access basic and applied research for the innovation of new products. Prof Imbuga said the institutions will assist in providing continuous educational training for industry as well as help industry to re-brand themselves.
The CEO of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, Ms Betty Maina said LIWA need to be a bridge ensuring that students are getting acquainted with industrial culture and systems particularity in technical areas to overcome the importation of experts.
“Finding competent personnel from our universities is a problem,” Ms Main said, adding “there is need for flexibility in curriculum development in institutions of higher learning.” She encouraged students to take longer internship or gap years from their studies through attachments. The KAM CEO called industrialists to give regular talks to students to signal industrial changes and needs.
Prof Koi Tirima, Director of Research, Policy and development at Africa Nazarene University said that to realize Vision 2030 and MDG’s required strategic and conscious collaboration of all stakeholders including; government, academia, the private sector and society. Prof Tirima said there is a need to involve industry in accreditation of the university curriculum “to provide graduates who are ready for the market.”
Dr Devit Desai, Chairman, LIWA and CEO of Centurion Systems Ltd said “we need to strengthen the linkage between industry and academia from the gains we are reaping so far.”
Dr Desai cited the example of Kenyatta University’s Manucharia Business Incubation and Innovation Centre (M-BIIC) that is expected to spur entrepreneurship among students. “The industry – academic partnership has soared innovations coming from our institutions of higher learning,” he said, explaining that some of the innovations have been turned into commercial products.
The Liwa Chairman said that information and communication technology (ICT) is being harnessed in the country as a result of lobbing between industry, academia and the government. He pointed out that LIWA will foster Kenya’s industrial competitiveness. “The industry will support its infrastructure through academia particularly in training engineers,” he said, adding that, in his opinion, “academia …should identify areas of research in the industry.”