Prof Solomon Shibairo has been appointed the new vice chancellor of Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (Mmust) in Kakamega County.
Prof Shibairo’s appointment comes after weeks of a recruitment by the University Council in collaboration with the Public Service Commission (PSC) on September 23.
Mmust announced his appointment, alongside those of several top managers, on its Twitter page on Friday.
Prof Shibairo, formerly the deputy vice chancellor (DVC) in charge of academics and students affairs at Kibabii University, has been the acting VC at Masinde Muliro since July last year.
He took over in March 2020 from Prof Asenath Sigot, who had replaced Joseph Bosire in July 2019.
Seven out of the 16 people who applied for the VC position were shortlisted. The others were Joseph Sarima Chacha, Sibilike Khamala Makhanu, Mary Abukutsa Onyango, Kenneth Inyani Simala, Peter Mwita and Paul Shiundu Mwanza.
Prof Shibairo is taking over from the late Prof Fredrick Otieno, who left office on December 1, 2018. He died in 2019.
Prof Shibairo holds a Bachelor of Science (Agriculture) degree from the University of Nairobi, class of 1985; a Master’s degree in Science (Agronomy) from the same university, class of 1989; and a PhD in plant science from the University of British Columbia, class of 1996.
He is a specialist in horticulture and agronomy and is a member of the Kenya National Academy of science, the food science and technology platform in Kenya, and the Horticultural Society of Kenya.
He worked as an associate professor at the University of Nairobi from 1989 to 2003 before he was appointed the DVC of academic and student affairs at Kibabii University.
Prof Shibairo said his main focus is to major in engineering and technology to make Mmust a center of excellence in the Western region.
“I want to take this institution to a very high pinnacle in terms of science, technology and innovations that our forefathers, who started the university, envisaged,” he said in an interview in his office.
The new VC added that they are pursuing growth of the Competence Based Curriculum, which he says improves the welfare of the child, the family and the country.
He further promised to venture into sugarcane production and engage in the debate around the revival of Mumias Sugar Company.
“We wish to ensure the sugar industry is eventually revived,” he said.
Masinde Muliro also announced the appointment of three DVCs - Prof John Kuria Thuo (administration and finance), Prof Charles Mutai (planning, research and innovation) and Prof Hussein Golicha (academic and student affairs).
Prof Thuo was the VC of Gretsa University while prof Mutua was the acting DVC of administration and finance at Mmust and prof Golicha the former DVC of academics at Garissa University.
The commission had shortlisted 12 professors for the position of planning, research and innovation DVC and another 12 for the position of academic and student affairs DVC.
The university has also appointed 11 full time professors and 24 associate professors in different fields of study.
Local leaders had demanded that the next vice chancellors be from the region in line with university’s goal of benefiting locals.
Union leaders' reactions
Officials of the Kenya Universities Staff Union (Kusu) welcomed the appointments and pledged to offer support.
Kusu Mmust branch secretary, Mr Gregory Lidzanga, said they were aware that workers’ welfare and progression had been affected by the lack of substantive leadership at the university.
Mr Lidzanga asked the new leaders to promote harmony and cohesion among all stakeholders.
“We are cognizant of the national outlook in the new appointments. The team should embrace any groupings that have balkanised the university in the recent past. We believe Mmust will move to the next level under their leadership,” he said.
Kusu chairman Onzere Mulongo noted that two cycles of collective bargaining agreements have gone by without negotiations and implementation and asked the new leaders to address the matter and award workers their dues.
Mr Mulongo said the union and the university leaders resolved many of the workers’ challenges, leading to the conclusion of some of the court cases that were hindering the hiring of a substantive VC
“The few remaining cases will also be concluded so that the university is run smoothly,” he said.