President, Aga Khan University, Mr. Firoz Rasul
Member, Board of Trustees, Mr. Yusuf H Keshavjee
Provost and Vice President, Academic, Dr. Carl Amrhein
Members of Government and the Diplomatic Corps;
Members of Faculty, and staff of the University
Alumni, Distinguished Guests
Graduating Class of 2018
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am delighted to be part of this 15th Convocation of the Aga Khan University. I congratulate the graduands - gathered here who have toiled hard in search of knowledge and excellence. Your hard work has finally paid off. Today marks the beginning of a special phase in your lives: a moment of special personal accomplishment and deep society pride. Relish it and step into the world of work or management with the same dedication and zeal as you exhibited during your time here. I want to commend the Aga khan University for preparing you well for the world of work. Please join me in appreciating the many contributions that His Highness the Aga Khan has made across the world, in East Africa and of course Kenya. We don’t say thank you enough. I urge You to do the University proud by being good and noble citizens that will contribute to our national development with integrity and commitment.
There is a consensus in cognitive psychology that it takes knowledge to gain knowledge and that the most educated people are not those who know everything, but those who know where to find information at a moment’s notice. This is the skill that you all take away from this institution today. Use it for the good of others, your communities and country. It’s been said before that your education is a dress rehearsal for a life that is yours to lead. Lead well and with compassion and with dedication. Be ambitious and gracious, dream big it’s been said before that if your dreams don’t scare you they are not big enough. (Ellen Johnson Sirleaf former President of Liberia.)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Universities are the highest institutions of learning and research. As the level at which high-order skills are imparted, Universities will continue to drive our national technological and industrial development agenda as well as the advancement of knowledge in all other fields of national endeavour. We are living in a complex skills-demand and supply paradigm that is unpredictable and highly competitive. We must therefore nurture an education system that focuses on the individual and prepares them adequately for the world of work.
Globally, the economic returns for higher education graduates are the highest in the entire educational system — an estimated 17 percent increase in earnings as compared with 10 percent for primary and 7 percent for secondary education (World Bank, 2017).
However, we continue to experience high levels of unemployment as a result of automation, training and industry needs mismatch, inadequate post-graduation preparation for young graduates, and increased skills supply compared to market demand. This has necessitated critical introspection by the sector and the inevitable need to reform University education to guarantee quality and relevance.
The soaring rate of youth unemployment and underemployment is of great concern. A study conducted by Dalberg in 2018 revealed that approximately 84% and 60% of the entire workforce comprised of young people between the ages of 15-35 who were either unemployed or underemployed. While the state of youth has been evaluated through the sole lens of unemployment, studies now show that underemployment is synonymous to unemployment. Most young graduates are classified as being employed while in fact, they are grossly underpaid (0.2 dollars a day) or not paid at all.
By the year 2023, Dalberg estimates that an additional 2.3 young people will join the workforce and estimated that 6.1 million young Kenyans will either be unemployed or underemployed by 2023. This number takes into account the expected creation of 8.5 new jobs. In light of the foregoing, the entire landscape of training for skills needs an urgent, practical and prioritized policy shift taking into consideration the effects of these changing dynamics.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In order to provide quality and relevant training, a systematic review of the constraints facing the higher education sector is necessary. These constraints include: curricula that is poorly aligned with the changing needs of the knowledge economy, declining quality of education, inadequate infrastructure to match curricula reforms and increased enrolment, which has overloaded lecturers and strained available infrastructure, moonlighting and inadequate student-lecture contact hours, declining standards and depth of research and shrinking liquidity.
To address these challenges, the Ministry has proposed and is implementing the following measures to streamline tertiary education:
i. Increased the capital allocation dedicated to research and innovation.
ii. The Commission for University Education is reviewing the depth and substance of university programs to eliminate unit duplication and shallow course content.
iii. To bridge the skills-industry mismatch, I launched the Office of Career services as a mandatory feature in all tertiary institutions. All institutions were directed to conform to this directive on or before 31st December, 2018. To this end, I direct the State Departments for University Education and Vocational and Technical Training to carry out an audit in all Universities to ascertain that this directive has now been fully complied with.
iv. 75% of all Government coordinated and offered scholarships will be reserved for University faculty with the aim of strengthening capacity and broadening expertise to deliver world class education.
v. Universities should enhance enrolment into Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Agriculture and Fisheries (STEMAF) to build capacity to deliver the Big 4 Agenda. These courses will produce the competencies we need to transform Kenya into ‘a newly industrializing, middle-income economy.’ It is encouraging to note that we doubled the number of students enrolling into STEM subjects from 20 per cent to 44.8 per cent in the 2017/2018 in take.
vi. In addition to this, I launched the Out of School Science, Technology and Innovation (OSSTEI) Program aimed at creating a culture of creativity, innovation, curiosity and productive entrepreneurship. I call upon tertiary institutions to partner with the program champions in every County to provide space for lab development and experimentation as we roll out this program nationally.
vii. To survive the tough economic times, we have banned University expansion through satellite campuses and are supporting ongoing austerity measures as Universities rethink strategies to raise sustainable operations capital. Universities must also devise innovative ways to generate additional income to supplement government allocation.
a. We are engaging partners to expand our pool of intellectual-exchange with other high-powered Universities in the world.
b. In March, 2019, I will lead a delegation of 10 local University Vice-Chancellors to the United Kingdom to meet and engage with 10 United Kingdom based institutions’ Vice Chancellors in a first of its kind, active collaborative project. It is my hope that this carefully thought-through process will offer an opportunity for our local universities to find ways of engaging with counterparts in the United Kingdom particularly, in the fields of research and innovation.
c. I have also extensively engaged with the Chinese Academy of Sciences in a series of discussions that will broaden sino-Kenyan relations in the field of higher education. Several institutions including the University of Nairobi and Dedan Kimathi University of Science and Technology have benefitted from this collaboration.
viii. I initiated University Dialogues to personally engage with University students as a critical part of the sector players in reforming University education to suit the dictates of the future of work and to reaffirm the stature of students as present leaders. The next series will be held at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University in March, 2019.
ix. Delays in releasing HELB loans to students are occasioned in part by bureaucracies of University administration. Starting September last year, all Universities were directed to adopt and operationalise the HELB Smart card solution. In this regard, the Ministry will be directly engaging institutions yet to implement this directive for compliance.
x. Starting last year, the trend of placements into Universities and Colleges has shifted from the top-university heavy model to an ideal inverted model where most candidates are placed into middle level colleges. This year, 90,744 candidates who attained a mean-grade of C+ and above qualified to join local universities. 121,288 who scored between C (plain) and C- (Minus) are eligible for placement in diploma courses in various TVET institutions. 244,436 who scored D and D+ are eligible for placement in craft certificate courses while 194,721 who scored between D and E qualified for selection to artisan courses in vocational institutions.
a. In order to continuously sustain the uptake of government sponsored students into universities and TVETs, the government has enhanced HELB financing to 13.5B and is sourcing more funds to enhance this allocation for uptake of more students.
b. The placement exercise is currently under-way until Saturday February 23, 2019. Candidates who wish to apply or revise their choices are therefore encouraged to visit the KUCCPS website for more information.
c. In order to support government initiative to place more students into the TVET sector, applications from candidates who sat their national examinations from the year 2000-2018 will be considered. This will provide a window of opportunity for broader skills acquisition to support the nation’s development priorities and reinforce the dignity of the individual through education and dignified livelihoods.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In conclusion, let me urge all of you to support the Ministry’s last mile form one admission tracer campaign aimed at ensuring that we have, for the first time in our country, 100% transition from primary to secondary school. This policy priority championed by His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta will fully meet Kenya’s commitment to the constitutional imperative on the right to education, reinforce the rights of all Kenyan children and give every young person a chance to acquire 12 Years of Quality Education. As at 12th February, 2019, the transition rate was at 90%. We will continue with the push to account for all the candidates who sat the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination last year.
Let me conclude by sharing one of my favourite poems with all of you, especially the graduating class of 2018:
Don’t just learn, experience
Don't just read, absorb.
Don't just change, transform.
Don't just relate, advocate.
Don't just promise, prove.
Don't just criticize, encourage.
Don't just think, ponder.
Don't just take, give.
Don't just see, feel.
Don’t just dream, do.
Don't just hear, listen.
Don't just talk, act.
Don't just tell, show.
Don't just exist, live.”
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
Thank you very much.