Via Mose G Mwangi
Prof. Laban Ayiro has finally stepped down as the acting Vice Chancellor of Moi University to pave way for Prof. Isaac Kosgey. There was nothing that captured best the spirit of the occasion than a picture that shows the incoming prof being flanked by village elders. Happy old men. The villagers seem jovial.
Finally one of their own son has taken over the helm of the second oldest institution of higher learning in Kenya. Students are nowhere to be seen in this picture. This is in stark contrast to when a year earlier students in the same institution had gathered in Main Campus to tell off leaders who were blocking the installation of Prof Laban Ayiro in the acting capacity.
Prof Kosgey will be taking over from Prof. Richard Mibey, with Prof Ayiro having only been the V.C in the acting capacity. Richard Mibey is the V.C who ran down the second best institution from the world class university Moi was to a big high school. During his tenure, student population rose from 5000 students to a population of 30,000 students. This would not have been a problem in itself save for that such an increase in students population was not accompanied by corresponding investment in infrastructure and human resource.
It was also during the tenure of Prof Mibey that the institution acquired Rivatex, a collapsing government corporation that was riddled with debts. The aim was to save a big company that was a source of livelihood to the community but had been brought down on its knees due to mismanagement. The company was acquired with money that had initially been set aside to build a state of the art textile engineering lab. Engineering student got old machinery for a lab while the community got back their company standing again. Prof Mibey was hailed for his as a genius.
Then came double intake. For those who cannot remember, double intake was the drastic measure that was taken to remove a backlog that had existed for over ten years. It was a classic case of employing a simple solution to a complex problem and as everyone knows it has dire consequences. Due to the backlog, students would waste two years after completing high school before joining university.
To do away with the backlog seemed like the best thing that the government would do in reducing wasted time for Kenyan young populace. But as a populist move that it was it only led to students from two years being crammed in the lecture rooms that were meant for half the students. Universities with leaders with foresight like UoN under the leadership of Prof. Magoha rejected the arrangement. But in cash starved like Moi University the move was welcomed with both hands, more students meant more cash-flow flowing into the school. Prof Mibey would then use the excuse of double intake to open many shuttle campuses as he would. The aim was to get as many self-sponsored students as possible as t=it had been found this was a gold mine.
The worst scandal that hit Moi University under Mibey was the loss of over 500 million that was attributed to accounting officers who were colluding with cheeky students to avoid paying fees. The students would pay half the amount to the accountants, they would then be given official receipts that showed they had paid the full amount. The half paid fees would also not end in the school banks accounts but in the accounts of the scheming accountants. When details of this grand mismanagement came out, the least of what would have been expected was for the man in charge to step aside in order pave way for further investigation to be conducted. This never happened, as the man in charge claimed to have been the one who blew the whistle, and with that the whole story died. It was later when Prof. Ayiro was taking over was the university unable to explain why it was in debts exceeding Ksh1 billion and why the school was operating so many bank accounts.
The exit of Prof. Mibey was long overdue. When details emerged that Prof. Ayiro had been appointed in the acting capacity as the V.C the news were welcomed with jubilation. But the jubilation was short-lived, as on the very day Mibey was to hand-over to Ayiro, a contagion of local politicians that was led by the area governor Jackson Mandago stormed the institution.
One interesting member of this contagion was a certain Mr. Sudi, a semi-illiterate member of parliament who dropped out of school at standard 4. And on that day he was dictating who would be the head of an institution of higher learning. The arrogance of power. The confidence of ignorance. It was then that the governor demanded that one of their own be placed in-charge of the institution. “We know that there is a plot to deny one of our sons the opportunity to lead this institution, we will not sit idle and watch that happen,” Mandago threatened. Of course the threat was directed to Dr. matiang’i who was the cabinet secretary for education so that he would rescind on his decision. But Matiang’I relented and dared the marauding tribalists to keep off the institution of higher learning. That’s how Prof. laban Ayiro ended up with a one year stint that has been cut short with the appointment of Isaac Kosgey.
The short stint that Prof. Laban Ayiro has been at the helm he has shown how to run a university. University would be a place for learning, he therefore embarked on a master project which envisioned a state of the art complex to house lecture halls. Hiring of new lecturers had also commenced after it had been put on hold due to the constrained budget the university had been forced to survive in. Even old buildings walls felt the appointment for after a long period of neglect the old walls drank of fresh paint. The university was also a dark enclosure with overgrown grass whose only known mower were grazing cattle from the neighbouring village.
But Ayiro changed that by installing several floodlights that would transform the entire campus night-life. Support staff who had only been reporting in the morning to hang their jackets and then disappear had also been put on notice. It was not business as usual. Ayiro had been the embodiment of the spirit of Matiang’i in campus, he meant business. The only indelible mark that may remain is the perimeter wall that was being constructed, though rumour has it that a company associated with a man who harbours presidential aspirations is had been contacted to put it up.
Finally, what happens of this institution that has fallen under tribal capture? This is a question that only time will tell. But in the meantime, if you are an aspiring student give a wide berth to such an institution.
When setting out to seek a university education, you will be putting in a lifetime investment of your youth and energy. The last place you want to put such an investment is in a place where excellence is sacrificed for mediocrity. If you doubt me, remember that this is the only university where students who joined in 2013 are still in campus for a four year course.
It should not be lost on Kenyans that these are the things that held Kenya back for 24 years when Moi was in charge. And that these are the same people fronting the ouster of a cabinet secretary whose only crime is firing an irresponsible KNH official.