Why South Eastern Kenya University is on autopilot

Former South Eastern Kenya University (Seku) vice chancellor Geoffrey Muluvi.

Photo credit: Pius Maundu | Nation Media Group

South Eastern Kenya University (Seku) is facing a management crisis after senior administrative positions remained vacant for months.

Top positions including the Chancellor, the Chairperson of the University Council and all three Deputy Vice-Chancellors (DVCs) have no substantive occupants, leaving the tertiary institution literally on autopilot.

Worse still, Prof Douglas Shitanda, the vice-chancellor appointed by Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu last month to replace the retired Prof Mwanza Muluvi, is yet to report for duty, prompting the University Academic Staff Union (Uasu) to protest the continued leadership vacuum.

In the absence of the university's top management officials, Prof Francis Wachira, who was the DVC in charge of administration and human resources, has since April been acting in four key positions - that of vice-chancellor and three deputy vice-chancellors.

Uasu Seku chapter secretary Mboya Kivai laments that the university is facing an administrative crisis where decisions on the day-to-day running of the institution cannot be made because there are no substantive office holders to approve them.

Speaking at a press briefing in Kitui town yesterday, Mr Kivai said the acting vice-chancellor Prof Wachira, who also holds all the three deputy vice-chancellor's offices of human resources, academic and finance, cannot be expected to be effective enough as the workload is enormous.

The university lacks top leadership and we appeal to President William Ruto, who is the appointing authority, and the Ministry of Education to address these governance gaps so that the university's core mandate of providing quality education is not compromised," said Mr Kivai.

He said more than 70 per cent of other senior management positions are held by acting officials and the current leadership vacuum is causing a lot of anxiety among staff and students, thus derailing the university's core business.

''Seku has been operating without a chancellor since the tenure of Dr Titus Naikuni expired in 2018. As the academic head of a university, a Chancellor is supposed to confer degrees and diplomas on the graduating class, but for the past five years, the government has ignored this anomaly,'' said Uasu Chapter Chairperson Dr Michael Wahome.

According to Dr Wahome, this is a dangerous and serious failure on the part of the government that should be addressed as soon as possible as it could lead to student unrest. Seku students took to the streets twice last week at Kwa Vonza market in Kitui County, calling on CS Education to address the situation.

They said calm was needed at a critical time when the university was due to admit first-year students in two weeks' time and graduate them on 27 October.

The Uasu officials said staff morale at Seku was at its lowest because the university lacked a council chairperson who could look after staff welfare, including negotiating and implementing collective agreements.

We are calling on the President to intervene because the mandate of the University Council is to source and manage human resources but that's not happening and Seku staff have not been paid their annual increments for the past four years - since July 2020,'' Dr Wahome said.

The union called on the government to expedite the appointment of a substantive chancellor, vice-chancellor and chairperson of the university council to avert industrial unrest.