Reflections on Former Vice Chancellors and DVCs on Life after Tour of Duty
By Maurice N. Amutabi
There are over 10 former Vice Chancellors in Kenya, and many of them are not being used to the maximum. These are experienced and solid scholars who still have great potential to assist in teaching and supervising post graduate students and mentoring junior scholars. Concerns are being raised regarding the life of Vice Chancellors of public universities after their tour of duty. In the Developed Countries, former Vice Chancellors end up as Emeritus professors in the universities in which they were tenured and allowed to teach and supervise PhD and Masters Students. They are given soft landing, with privilege of an assistant and secretary, and allowed to keep their previous salaries. For Kenya, life outside office for Vice Chancellors is not so glamorous. There are stories where some report to their former universities and made to share offices and not so welcoming environment. There are also stories where some are not being used in meaningful ways, and left to waste away.
Some former Vice Chancellors are working as Chancellors for various universities. Prof. Richard Musangi, former VC of Egerton University is currently the Chancellor of University of Kabianga. One would expect that Prof. Musangi remains on the payroll at Egerton and still supervises research students and conducts a class or two when he finds time. Prof. Raphael Munavu, the former VC of Moi University currently services as the Chancellor for Laikipia University. One would also expect that Prof. Munavu finds time to go to class at the University of Nairobi where he was tenured. Prof. David K. Some, the CEO of the Commission of University Education (CUE) is perhaps one of the most active and dynamic former Vice Chancellor. Since he left the position of Vice Chancellor at Moi University, Prof Some has been active, and now works as CEO of CUE, helping to nurture university education in Kenya. Prof Everett Standa has also remained active after his tour of duty as Vice Chancellor at Kenyatta University. He is now the Vice Chancellor of East African University in Kitengela, and seems to be doing well, developing the young university.
Prof. Douglas Odhiambo, the first VC of Moi University currently serves as the Chancellor of Technical University of Mombasa. Prof. Shelemiah Okoth Keya, the second VC of Moi University is currently working as the Chancellor for Dedan Kimathi University of Science and Technology. Prof Francis John Gichaga the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Nairobi currently serves as the Chancellor of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT). Prof. Gichaga has also been working as the Chairman of the Presbyterian University of East Africa (PUEA). There are reports that he enjoys teaching and supervising PhD and Masters Students and very comfortable in the engineering workshops. This should be the line pursued by all former VCs and DVCs after their tours of duty end. They should find their way to the classroom, because that is their first calling before they entered management. Surprisingly, many VCs and DVCs stop teaching and researching the moment they are named VCs or DVCs so that by the time they go back, they have lost touch and interest in their disciplines.
There is no information on the whereabouts of the former VC of the University of Nairobi, Prof Crispus Makau Kiamba. His last station was the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology where he served as Permanent Secretary for Higher Education. There are former DVCs who have remained active while others have disappeared. Prof. Florida Amakobe Karani, served as the Chancellor of Maseno University for two terms. Prof. Karani is back in class, teaching at the Kikuyu Campus of the University of Nairobi. Prof Shem Wandiga was the counterpart to Prof. Karani as DVC at the University of Nairobi, in charge of Administration and Finance, and now serves as the Chancellor for Egerton University. Prof. Mathew K. Maleche, the first Deputy Vice Chancellor of Moi University has been teaching in the Faculty of Education of the University since his tour of duty ended over twenty years ago. He still supervises PhD and masters students. Prof. Jude Julius Ong’ong’a who served as DVC Academics at Kenyatta University from 1999-2007 still teaches courses in religious studies at the University and is actively involved in mentoring junior scholars in publishing. Prof. Arthur Luvai, former DVC at Maseno University is back in class, the same to Prof. John Shiundu, and Prof. Asenath Sigot, former DVCs at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology who are back in class. Prof. Rosalind Mutua, former DVC at JKUAT is now Chairperson of Maseno University Council. Prof George Omore Magoha just stepped aside after two terms as the VC of the University of Nairobi. Reports indicate that he is back in class and doing well, handing over to the new VC, Prof. Mbithi. Prof. Magoha will be a candidate for council chair or chancellor of one of the many public universities.
The most astonishing and perhaps even bizarre story of former VCs is that of Prof. Philip Muinde Mbithi. Unlike other former VCs and DVCs who have taken up work in the academic realm, Prof. Philip Mbithi has become a ‘prophet’ and retreated to his Lisa Ranch home in Konza, some 60 kilometres from Nairobi. He is reported to do some farming, away from Sociology, in which he is one of the most celebrated. He is reportedly now taking instructions only from God in order to pass the message to the rest of us. He is reported to have prophesied the discovery of oil in Kenya. Many believe that he got derailed when he joined the Civil Service. On October 28 1991, Prof. Philip Muinde Mbithi was appointed as Head of Civil Service and Secretary to the Cabinet by former President Daniel Moi. By the end of his tour of duty, he would be shaken up and very traumatised. Those who know him say that when he took over as VC from Prof Joseph Maina Mungai (1978-1985), he was fine. He remained okay as he left for the civil service job, but we will never know what happened to him when he left that plum job. Perhaps we may one day read about it in his books.
There is no information on the second Vice Chancellor of Kenyatta University, Prof. Philip Mwangi Githinji (1987-92), who took over from the late Prof. Peter Gacii (1985-87). The late Prof. George Eshiwani served as VC at Kenyatta University from 1992 to 2003 and his last station was Council chairman at the Technical University of Kenya. He had also worked as Pro-Chancellor at Mount Kenya University. There were initial fears when Prof. Eshiwani had taken to growing fish, but fears ended when he went back to university management. In limited space such as this, one can provide details of all former VCs and DVCs and what they are currently doing. These are people in whom Kenya has invested a lot and should not be left to waste away. There is need to have an inventory on what they are doing and if they can be allowed to get back to class and help us meet the current shortfall in PhD training. Kenya has less than 5000 PhD degree holders and yet we need about 25,000. We are producing less than 500 PhDs per year. We therefore need the services of every professor out there in order to mitigate the shortfall. Universities should create room for emeritus professors in order to accommodate these academic luminaries and retain them on our campuses.
Prof. Amutabi is the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic and Students Affairs), Kisii University and teaches courses in history and political science. Amutabi@yahoo.com