LEAN TIMES

Fire inept varsity heads, not staff

In Summary
  • Universities have pumped cash in many areas as investments and made great losses.
  • Either, the projects are created to benefit individuals and not the institution or are implemented in a rush, with poor feasibility studies undertaken.
Traffic snarl-up along Thika superhighway in Juja town following JKUAT students' protests on Monday.
Traffic snarl-up along Thika superhighway in Juja town following JKUAT students' protests on Monday.
Image: John Kamau

According to recent media reports, cash-strapped public universities, unable to pay salaries and run their day-to-day operations are planning job cuts, a process likely to send many home. But here, the punitive measure is going to punish the wrong people.

Those mandated with this process should be the ones on the chopping board, some should be in Kamiti, serving jail terms for plunder, mismanagement and ineptness. Former top university managers, including vice chancellors, purposely violated hiring, procurement and accounting procedures through ghost projects and inflated tenders, directly enhancing their personal financial profiles.

They turned their institutions to cash cows, milking them dry. They stand accused and cannot escape the wrath of the law for their plunder. During good times, bad managers pampered themselves with unnecessary trips, to earn per diem.

Universities are citadels of knowledge, supposedly oozing with the best brains in the country. Here, students are taught entrepreneurship and business related courses. How the same brains cannot be tapped to revolutionise fortunes for the dying institutions remains a mystery.

The universities have pumped cash in many areas as investments and made great losses. Either, the projects are created to benefit individuals and not the institution or are implemented in a rush, with poor feasibility studies undertaken.

 

Public universities made a fortune at the peak of the parallel degree programme but mismanaged the proceeds through undeserving projects. Some were on a rat race, an expansion spree, to place academic beacons in every village in the republic.

Universities were opening satellite campuses like market stalls, provided an interested party came up with a proposal. Many have closed shop, leaving the universities with deep gaping financial holes that retrenchment cannot cure.

We need to begin by surcharging  heads of the institutions who are driving their institutions into a financial mess only to sacrifice junior staff. How culpable is a cleaner in this process?

Many have been employed in the institutions through political processes as senior government and political leaders look for a safe landing for their kith and kin. Others came on board because of familial or ethnic attachment to top managers, eying political office on retirement.

Such employees, however unfruitful, may survive the chop due to protective arms hovering over their heads. Unhinged employees, however productive and professional, may become the victims of this process.

Instead of building hostels to accommodate students and assure themselves of continuous revenue flow from the hostels (universities have space and free land), they went on a spending spree, some renting or buying space offshore with nil returns.

Retrenchment won’t cure the financial stress the universities are in. Heads need to roll from the top, where the rot is. Universities require total reforms, not job cuts.

Senior administrator at a public university