The cost of higher education in Kenya is “turning millions of parents into paupers and killing the dreams of millions of our children”, a leading politician has warned.
Raila Odinga, Kenya’s prime minister between 2008 and 2013, said that universities must develop cheaper modes of delivering courses because too many would-be students, particularly those from poor or rural backgrounds, were being “left behind”.
Speaking at Nairobi’s United States International University Africa, Mr Odinga also said that the burden of student loan repayments must be lowered for graduates who took on lower-paying public service jobs, arguing that people should not feel “punished” for having gone to university.
“University education is not a luxury but a basic requirement for the development of our country and our youth,” Mr Odinga said. “It should therefore be affordable to every family.
“The sad truth is, just like healthcare, university education is turning millions of parents into paupers and killing the dreams of millions of our children. Streamlining student loans and [the] cost of tuition must be part and parcel of the plan to improve access and equity in Kenya.”
Mr Odinga, the runner-up in Kenya’s 2013 presidential election, also claimed that ministers in the country had come up with higher education regulations which were “intrusive and overly prescriptive in the name of quality assurance”.
He said that, while quality was important, ministers had adopted an attitude of “command and control” and appeared to be misinterpreting legislation in order to “micromanage the design and delivery of courses”.
The government was “even attempting to supervise and evaluate lecturers”, he said. “This approach undermines the autonomy and conventional universality of universities. Universities cannot and must not be identical.
“The government should be content with setting broad guidelines without purporting to regulate every aspect of campus life like hiring, firing, promotions, construction, fundraising and curriculum and educational programmes.”