Today, some learning institutions could be mistaken for business concerns.
Learning institutions, especially universities and colleges that have foresighted and aggressive managers are able to secure funding from donors, business and research foundations to support their programmes.
Private learning institutions are edu-business entities but the same cannot be said about public learning institutions.
This is because private learning institutions business model offers room to generate incomes without compromising education standards and quality.
Nairobi university has a business arm, University of Nairobi Enterprise Services ( UNES), whose mandate is to manage non-academic activities that generate incomes for the institution.
Unfortunately, UNES cannot operate, make and execute decisions without authority from the Vice-chancellor and Council.
Due to inadequate funding from the government, public learning institutions are devising alternative ways to raise money to cover funding shortfalls.
School administrations are therefore notorious in organising fundraisers, whereby the community, parents, churches and political leaders are engaged to donate money.
These fundraisers realise millions of shillings annually.
Fundraising activities are leaving school administrations with little time to effectively concentrate on core business, which is managing learning.
In the end what suffers is learning methods, learning environment, students, teaching and non-teaching staff welfare.
Apart from fundraisers, hiring of school transport, selling of chicken, milk, farm produce and pigs earn schools millions every year.
For strange reasons, the Ministry of Education has never seen it wise to hold schools administration to account for these funds.
In fact, if such funds were to be plowed back into supporting schools’ programmes, there would be little need to bother parents with excessive fee payments.
That as it may, unless special business entities are created to act as business and fundraising arms for learning institutions, standards of education will keep deteriorating in the country.
Moreover, conflicts over schools resources among different stakeholders will continue affecting the smooth running of these institutions for a long time to come.
It is instructive to note that whereas the Ministry of Education is committed to reform the education system through change of curricular, the elephant in the room remains the management of resources.
Therefore, the Ministry ought to wake up and admit that beyond the schools syllabus, management is also paramount.
Are school managements in tandem with the core business of learning institutions?
Some people may not agree with my views but it is the high time schools are discouraged to disengage from income generating activities-in a nutshell business.
If this is impossible to pronounce, then let there be special purpose vehicles to perform this role and not Vice-chancellors, university councils, principals, school bursars and boards.
Such agencies should partly be funded by the Exchequer and therefore be properly audited and answerable to the Ministry of Education.
Furthermore, the Auditor-General should scrutinise such agencies in order to ensure full accountability for all funds.
If you follow what I am writing about, then you start to see why academic personnel should not be allowed to manage businesses for learning institutions.
Pause for a moment and visualise learning institutions without businesses and ask yourself what difference would it make.
Personally, I see models of academic excellence and learning institutions of high standards.
I wonder if what learning institutions in Kenya are concentrating on is what their counterparts in Japan, Britain, America, South Africa, Germany etc are doing.
Today a university in dire need of funding will put priority to building student hostels when it should be improving learning facilities, research, wellness and welfare programmes.
Hostels is a service that can be provided by communities within Universities’ environment.
To me, these are kickback projects and nothing more than that.
As usual, critics will argue that the Kenyan economic situation demands schools to operate businesses but at what cost my dear Kenyans?
Do we continue to compromise education standards and quality because of money?
If the answer is yes, then I withdraw my views with a lot of regret.
Kaunda wa Muchunku
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