The Cabinet Secretary for Education, Prof George Magoha, has warned that the financial problems currently afflicting public universities should not compromise the quality of education they offer.
While admitting that the universities are in a financial crisis, the CS challenged their managements to expand income generating initiatives to plug budgetary gaps in their operations.
Professor Magoha attributed the financial challenges universities face partly to the increased admissions due to the 100 percent transition to institutions of higher learning.
"Our priority should be to ensure academic standards are not compromised," Prof Magoha said.
The CS encouraged universities to develop innovative approaches to leveraging resources through prudent management of government capitation, collection of student fees and to cultivate and invest in new donors, partners and collaborators to remain financially stable.
"The university must strengthen its research capacity, with teaching staff taking greater initiatives to grant writing. Through innovations, the university can be a powerful engine for change and transformation of the nation" added Magoha in a speech read on his behalf by the principal secretary for University Education and Research, Simon Nabukwesi, during the 37th graduation ceremony of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, JKUAT. The occasion was also the seventh graduation for the Pan African University Institute for Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation.
During the convocation presided over by the chancellor, Prof Joseph Mathu Ndung'u, 4,443 undergraduates, 104 postgraduate diplomas, 539 masters and 85 doctorate degrees were awarded.
Mahboub Maalim, the JKUAT council chair, appealed to the government to enhance funding to the university to enable it complete ongoing projects that are aimed at enhancing training, research and innovation activities.
In her latest audit reports, the auditor general, Nancy Gathungu, pokes holes into the financial management of some universities and questions their ability to offer quality services while financially distressed. She has declared some of them technically insolvent since they cannot sustain themselves without government funding and support from creditors.
Worryingly, only a few of the universities indicate that they attracted income from their research activities, a serious indictment of their performance on the core function of a university.
Whereas the audit reports are specific to the universities, there is a common thread showing they operate on a deficit, have pending bills, stalled projects, and in some cases, lack ownership documents for parcels of land they own. The audit reports relate to the financial year ending June 30 2020, and which were prepared between a few months ago.
Additionally, some public universities have failed to remit statutory deductions which continue to accrue every year even as interest and penalties pile up. The deductions include Pay As You Earn, Value Added Tax, sacco and loan deductions.
The Vice Chancellors' Committee, which comprises VCs from all public universities, has proposed that the tuition fees be raised threefold from the current Sh16,000 to Sh48,000 for the universities to run effectively.
Professor Ndung'u said that JKUAT has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization to establish the National Assistive Technology Centre of Excellence.
The centre will cater for persons with disabilities, non-communicable diseases, mental health conditions and gradual function decline, among other medical conditions.