Mount Kenya University founder on plans to roll
out education that responds to people’s needs
By Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti
Mount Kenya University MKU), the biggest private university in East and Central Africa, has committed to keep working hard to establish a fully autonomous Mount Kenya University Rwanda (MKUR).
In so doing, the institution plans to realign courses offered to the needs and aspirations of the country.
This, according to Prof. Simon Gicharu, the founder of MKU, aims at making the university highly competitive and more relevant to the people of Rwanda.
Speaking during an interview, Prof. Gicharu said the realignment of courses will be informed by an assessment on needs and aspirations of Rwandans, with an aim of churning out graduates with hands-on skills, capable of being job creators.
“Some people look at me as a businessman; I am not a businessman. I am a teacher by profession, that is what many people do not know; when they see me, they don’t look at me in the lenses of a person doing what he loves and was trained to do,” he said.
He said he has been in education for about four decades and one of the things he has done is co-authoring a book which is currently used to support mathematics in technical training institutions in the whole of Kenya.
In Rwanda, he said MKU has had time to listen to the aspirations of the Rwandan people and was now set to fulfill their goals.
“Basically, our area of interest would be in technology and that is why we are starting a transition that will see our university become an international university of technology,” he said.
According to him, the business courses taught in the universities were found not to be answering to the aspirations of the young people.
He said that MKU wants to ensure that young Rwandans and those from other countries where they operate can acquire skills they can utilize after college, adding that they were not training people to be job seekers but to become job creators.
“That really would be our aspiration, we need to be able to offer courses that can help them to be able to achieve that,” said the father of three.
“Recently we have established this programme on Hospitality, we are also more in health sciences because as you know, every country especially in Africa, is struggling to ensure universal health care for its citizens, so we have also invested substantially in that regard,” he added.
Gicharu said the application to make MKU Rwanda autonomous from the main campus in Kenya was in the final stages.
This means that the institution will be able to choose its own programmes that respond to the needs and aspiration of Rwandans unlike the current situation where they depend on the mother university.
“When you are attached to a mother university, if you find that there is something you want to change, you cannot do that because you are a campus but now once you become autonomous then you can develop your own programme and also link them to the needs of the local population,” he added.
He said that MKU Rwanda will continue to provide relevant programmes that are related to the needs of development.
“We want to contribute by establishing a Centre of Excellence in Hospitality and Healthcare to support the developmental goals in Rwanda. Health is one of the areas the government is aspiring to support and we have established a school of Health Sciences specifically to do that,” he noted.
He said that hopefully, by the end of this year the Kicukiro-based University will be autonomous.
Upsurge in number of students
MKUR is a premier private institution of Higher learning offering diverse courses in the areas of Nursing, Public Health, Medical Laboratory Sciences, Business and Economics, Information Technology, Social Sciences, Journalism and Education.
Established in Rwanda in 2010, the university started with 10 students only and the number has so far grown to over 3,000 according to management.
“We want to grow that number to 5,000 and stop because we don’t want to overstress our infrastructure,” said Gicharu.
According to Gicharu, the university is also investing in infrastructure such as hostels to accommodate students from other parts of the country and adding that they are also investing in extra curricula activities such as basketball, swimming pool among others.
MKU has so far invested between Rwf10 billion and Rwf15 billion.
Gicharu hailed the education sector in Rwanda saying it is in the right direction to provide quality education and embracing ICT especially in primary and providing the relevant education.
He encouraged more students to enroll to his university if they want to realise their dreams.
The only thing I promise is quality education. We are committed and continuing to improve infrastructure in all areas to ensure that there is enabling environment,” he said.
Rwanda’s enabling environment
“Rwanda is the best in terms of enabling environment and that is why we are here and not elsewhere. It is easier to say we are open to investment but when you try to establish investment in some countries (which I will not name) it becomes completely difficult, we have tried in other countries and it has not been very easy because there was no enabling environment,” he said.
“In one country we had even to leave infrastructure we had purchased simply because of bureaucracy,” he said.
He said that MKUR takes its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) seriously and has participated in various ways such as; construction of classroom at G.S Gahanga, One Cow per Poor Family Programme (Girinka), Paying Community Health Insurance (Mituel de santé), campaign against drug abuse through sports among others.
“We also work with Imbuto foundation to support girls in schools and we provide scholarship to some of them who pass well,” he noted.
Balancing work and family matters
To be successful in all he does, Gicharu believes in the principle of delegation.
“What I do is to delegate; I don’t have to be everywhere. One of the things I do is to empower people I am working with so that they can be able to do what they are supposed to do even when I am not there,” he said.
Mount Kenya University currently operates campuses in Rwanda, Somaliland and major towns in Kenya.