Nairobi — President Mwai Kibaki has listed reforms in the education sector as one of his greatest successes in the 10 year term he has served as Head of State.
"We are particularly proud of the significant gains made in the provision of education for our people," the President said during the launch of the first Columbia Global Centre in Africa Monday.
President Kibaki introduced Free Primary Education (FPE) during his first term and tuition-free secondary education in public schools during his second term as president.
"This [FPE] has seen the level of enrolment in primary schools increase from five million in 2003 to more than eight million pupils today," the President said.
"Kenya has further introduced free secondary schooling programme where the Government pays tuition fees for students while the parents cater for the costs."
The Head of State has also awarded charters to a number of institutions of higher learning in his bid to have Kenya achieve middle income status.
"At independence Kenya was wholly reliant on foreign institutions of higher learning to train its work force. However, we have expanded the number of universities to provide access to relevant skills and competence."
"Vocational training at middle level tertiary education is also undergoing unprecedented reforms," the President continued to say.
The statesman said the reforms witnessed in the education sector during his tenure are a realisation of the late Jomo Kenyatta's vision for Kenya when he took up the mantle as Kenya's first president.
"Almost fifty years ago the founding father of our nation declared the greatest challenges the new Kenya faced were poverty, disease and ignorance."
"By ignorance he meant lack of education, which during the colonial times, was only accessible to a limited few."
Also present at the launch was the Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn who expressed optimism that the centre would help solve poverty related challenges in Kenya and Ethiopia.
"We need to control the population pressure that is coming to Africa now. So excellencies, I'd like to reassure you that Ethiopia is committed to work with the Global Centre to bring best practices and practical solutions to Africa."
It is the premier's second visit to Kenya barely two months since his last visit when the two statesmen signed a special status agreement in support of trade relations between the two countries.
Columbia University President, Leo Bollinger, flew into the country for the launch from the university's headquarters in New York as did United Nations Special Advisor Professor Jeffrey Sachs.
The centre will be the ninth Columbia has set up in the world with other centres in China, France, Turkey, Chile, Jordan, India, Brazil and New York.