Fresh leadership wrangles are behind the announcement that University of Nairobi Vice-Chancellor Stephen Kiama has gone on a six-month leave, the Nation can reveal.
The communication regarding Prof Kiama’s leave was sent on Tuesday morning through an email to all staff and students by the director of corporate affairs John Orindi.
“This is to inform you that the council of the University of Nairobi, during its special meeting on July 31 2023, approved the vice chancellor’s request dated July 28 2023 to proceed on leave for a period of six months with effect from August 1 2023. In the absence of the vice chancellor, the council appointed Prof Julius Ogeng’o to discharge the duties of the office of the vice chancellor in acting capacity effective August 1 2023,” the email reads.
Later in the afternoon, Prof Kiama was at State House during the launch of the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms report by President William Ruto.
Mr Orindi said that there was nothing unusual about the leave and that the VC was “exhausted’”and had proceeded on sabbatical leave.
However, the Nation has established that there are undercurrents to the request for leave by Prof Kiama.
“I’d not taken leave for a long time so I’d accumulated a lot of days. We’ve been rebranding the university to make it more relevant and I was also involved in the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms,” he told the Nation.
“I know where we want to go but I saw some governance issues which will not take us there. If it’s effected, it can’t be the university it is. Let all of us think about the institution we want. We can’t afford people keeping you busy with mundane things and then they measure your performance based on those things. I requested for leave so that I have time to reflect,” Prof Kiama said without going into details, only saying a shorter leave cannot resolve those things.
Our efforts to reach the new council chairperson, Prof Amukowa Anangwe, were futile. He did not respond to our calls and text messages. The other members of the council are Ahmed Sheikh Abdullai, Dr Darmain ole Warkae, Caren Kerubo Omwenga and Dr Sally Ngeringwony Toroitich.
They replaced the council that had been appointed in July 2022 and which was chaired by renowned academic Prof Miriam Were. Other members were Alison Kariuki, Charles Ogolo and Flora Mtuweta Maghanga.
The Nation understands that Prof Kiama is opposed to the re-appointment of a senior member of management whose contract expired last month.
It is after disagreeing with the council over the matter, among others, that he decided to take leave.
This means that he will not be present to receive and induct the new students who will report next month and will also miss the two graduation ceremonies scheduled for September and December.
Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu denied knowledge of any conflict between the VC and the council but acknowledged receipt of the request for the six-month “renewable” leave. He revealed that Prof Kiama indicated in the letter that he does not wish to present his name for reappointment when his term expires in 2025.
“There were misunderstandings with the former council and because of that, I said we can’t have a council that isn’t working with the VC and I replaced it with a new one. The VC is the one who recommended Prof Ogeng’o to act when he’s away and I concurred. If there was conflict, he should have come to me,” Mr Machogu said.
On Thursday August 3, the acting VC sent a memo to all staff regarding their delayed salaries for July.
“This was due to circumstances beyond our control. As a caring organization, we’re working towards resolving this matter expeditiously so that your salaries are paid soon,” Prof Ogeng’o wrote.
Prof Kiama was installed as the eighth VC of UoN in June 2020 for a five-year term. Then Education CS George Magoha revoked his appointment saying that the President had not been consulted by the council before making the announcement. Prof Kiama went to court but the parties resolved the matter out of court.