University of Nairobi

A section of the University of Nairobi's main Campus. 

| Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

Petitioner seeks to have alumni included in universities’ management

What you need to know:

  • The current Act stipulates that a university may establish an alumni association.
  • The petitioner argues that the use of the word ‘may’ does not compel universities to form alumni.

Universities will be compelled to appoint members of their alumni to the university senate, board of management, council and other areas of management if Parliament approves a petition currently before it.

The petition by Patrick Kaberia presented to the National Assembly on Thursday seeks to amend the University Act 2012 in order to compel universities to establish alumni associations and appoint members into the management organs of the universities.

In particular, the petitioner seeks to amend clause 42 of the current Act to replace the word ‘may’ with ‘shall’, a move that will make it mandatory for all universities to have active alumni associations.

The current Act stipulates that “A university may establish an alumni association, which may consist of graduates of the university and such other persons as may be declared to be members under the charter.”

“An alumni association shall act as an interactive forum for the members and perform such other functions as may be specified in the charter,” further reads clause 42 of the Act.

The petitioner argues that the use of the word ‘may’ does not compel universities to form alumni and members are also ignored by the universities in the management of the institutions.

Poor leadership

“The sad state of public universities in the country is occasioned by poor leadership, lack of inclusivity, deteriorating academic performance, lack of accountability, lack of observing regional balance. Some of the ills can be cured by involving members of the alumni in the management of the universities,” reads the petition.

Mr Kaberia pointed out that failure to include alumni associations in the management of universities has made some of the universities sink under debts, others are staring at auctioning of their property, and the involvement of alumni associations will go a long way in solving some of these challenges.

Lawmakers supported the move, saying it is the practice globally.

Nominated MP Denitah Ghati said foreign universities are stable financially and have good management because of the role played by alumni associations, and Kenyan universities should follow suit.

“Foreign universities have well-structured alumni associations where former students give back to the university,” Ms Ghati said.

She gave an example of Columbia University where she is an alumna, and which has an office in Nairobi where former students give back and encourage local students to join.

Nominated MP and former Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Secretary General Wilson Sossion supported the petition, saying the involvement of alumni members in critical decision making organs of universities will improve management and accountability in the institutions.

Proper management

Kilifi North MP Owen Baya said despite most current vice chancellors having studied abroad, they still don’t appreciate the importance of having a strong alumni association.

“Countries out there know the importance of alumni associations but our vice chancellors, who have studied abroad, can’t bring the best practice in our local universities. I’m an alumnus of Kenyatta University but when I go there, I will be stopped at the gate and (guards will) demand that I get an appointment,” Mr Baya said.

He said when alumni associations are actively involved in the management, cases of bright students dropping out of school will be a thing of the past.

Kisumu East MP Olago Aluoch pointed out the problem in local universities as not being financial, but lack of proper management, which can be resolved by the alumni being involved in the management.

“Time has come when this Parliament must take the issue seriously and deal with cases of management and nepotism in our universities,” Mr Aluoch said.

The petition will be considered by the committee of Education within 60 days, and they will present a report to the House.