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Universities told to tailor research to community needs

Education ministry will only support projects that solve problems faced by the ordinary mwananchi

In Summary

• The announcement will be a boost to the Big Four agenda.

• Researchers told to align their work with the strengths and needs of communities, regions, and the nation.

University Education PS Collet Suda with UoN council chairman Idle Farah at a past graduation ceremony.
University Education PS Collet Suda with UoN council chairman Idle Farah at a past graduation ceremony.
Image: PATRICK VIDIJA

Scientists and researchers in Kenyan universities will have to narrow their scope of projects to solve local problems.

The Education ministry on Tuesday declared that it will only support projects that solve problems faced by the ordinary mwananchi in the areas of agriculture, affordable housing, healthcare and manufacturing.  This will be a boost to President Uhuru's Kenyatta development plans as they constitute the Big Four agenda.

With Sh2 billion earmarked for research in the next financial year, the aim will be to improve small businesses and fix recurring societal problems such as disease and hunger.

 
 
 

University Education PS Collet Suda on Tuesday urged public university research leaders to align their work with the strengths and needs of communities, regions, and the nation.

She spoke during the launch of the 2018-22 strategic plan for the National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation.

"In addition to educating highly skilled graduates who invest in and contribute to their communities, public universities play a key role in enhancing lives through their cutting-edge research in nearly every conceivable field and industry ... These activities lead to ventures, products, and service that advance and improve society." Suda said.

In any country, universities are major engines of entrepreneurship, human resource and economic growth.

In Kenya, for instance, public and private universities undertook 9,319 research projects from 2016 to 2018. Despite the figure, however, researchers have been criticised for failing to focus on community needs. 

Trendsetters

Should universities comply and get it right, they will join a pool of other world institutions that have taken advantage of research opportunities to change lives.

 

Over the years, innovations and inventions have been achieved courtesy of university research projects. The countless groundbreaking innovations and technologies include touch screens and lithium-ion batteries that are used in smartphones, laptops, and electric vehicles, antibiotics used to treat diseases such as tuberculosis and gene-editing system that promises to help combat a litany of debilitating diseases and viruses.

In East Africa, two of Rwanda’s universities are fostering community outreach activities that are shaping and changing people’s lives. The Kigali Health Institute (KHI) and some departments at the National University of Rwanda are solving health problems within neighbouring communities.

The KHI’s clinics and consultancy centres offer informative, rehabilitative and curative services in dental therapy, physiotherapy, medical diagnostic laboratory and family health therapy to the public, students and staff. They mainly target rural areas.

At Makerere University in Uganda, community outreach is highly valued, to the extent that it occupies a central position in its pursuit of quality education.

By emphasising training and research, the programmes become relevant to communities.

(Edited by F'Orieny)