Higher learning to reform if William Ruto implements manifesto

Moi University Main Campus students

Moi University Main Campus students in Uasin Gishu County protest the delay in the release of Higher Education Loans Board funds on March 10, 2021. President-elect William Ruto has promised to streamline the education sector as a priority once he takes over.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

President elect-William Ruto will merge three higher education agencies as a way of streamlining and increasing funding of students in the institutions, an examination of his charter shows.

The institutions are currently grappling with cash crises, with five universities warning staff earlier last week that they could not pay salaries.

 In his signed education charter, Dr Ruto is pledging to increase the funding to the universities and also establish a council that will merge the funding released to the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb), Technical and Vocational Education Training (Tvet) institutions and the University Funding Board (UFB).

“To bridge the current higher education funding gap of up to 45 per cent, the Kenya Kwanza government will establish a National Skill and Funding Council that amalgamates Helb, Tvet and University Funding Board,” said Dr Ruto in the charter.

Currently, the government is funding university students at a rate of Sh70,000 per individual. Those in Tvets receive Sh30,000 government sponsorship while Helb gives student loans of between Sh37,000 and Sh60,000 annually. Those in Tvets receive Helb loans of Sh26,000.

However, due to a lack of funds in the national treasury, the government is not able to release the full amount to universities and the institutions.

Dr Ruto is pledging to address the financial crunch in public universities by putting in place legislative, policy and budgetary measures aimed at addressing the issue.

His government is further planning to double the current Helb funding from Sh11 billion to Sh22 billion and make the Helb loans interest-free

Dr Ruto’s government also promises to amend the Universities Act of 2012 to allow the transfer of management of universities, including the hiring of management, from the Public Service Commission to university councils.

The 12th National Assembly in July rejected a Bill that sought to give the office of the Education Cabinet Secretary powers to approve appointments of vice-chancellors and control the management of universities.

More reforms in the Kenya Kwanza government will include offering grants for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem), agriculture and any other strategic courses to drive the delivery of the bottom-up economic agenda, increasing research funding, the establishment of a skills council and facilitation of universities to institute internationalisation programmes to attract students from neighbouring countries and other countries targeting at least 10 per cent of university enrolment.

“We commit to establish a one-year paid national internship programme for all students graduating as teachers, technical, medical colleges and universities, by collaborating with industry players. To this end, we shall constitute a team comprising public and private sector players to drive the programme,” reads the manifesto.

Kenya Kwanza is promising to ensure that each county has a public university and also ensure institutions focus on the counties’ comparative advantage.

He notes that the University Act 2012 provides that the government will establish at least one university in each of the 47 counties.

Kenya Kwanza also plans to set up a National Open University to increase access and reduce the cost of university education and implement a 100 per cent transition to higher education institutions.

Conditional grants

Dr Ruto is also promising to increase the number of Vocational Training Centres(VTCs) and Tvets across the country.

“We commit to allocate conditional grants to county governments within its first one year to ensure that in addition to the existing 1,200, we will construct 250 VTC in wards that currently do not have,” says Dr Ruto.

Dr Ruto is also promising to fully equip all the remaining Tvets in 52 constituencies within the first two years and ensure there is a national polytechnic in each of the 47 counties.

Further, Dr Ruto is promising to increase the number of technical universities from the current three to eight across the country’s eight regions, with each serving as a regional incubation and innovation centre.

They further plan to link TVETs to universities to develop a credit transfer framework to support academic progression.

Yesterday, university dons from various universities welcomed the Kenya Kwanza education charter, saying it will bring change in the higher education sector.