When Nahashon Muriuki applied for his master’s degree in Business (Strategic Management) at the Kenyatta University in 2018, it was supposed to be a smooth one and a half year academic journey.
With the university’s satellite campus in Nyeri Town, he would study during the weekends and the occasional evening classes.
But barely a year into his studies, the facility was shut, transferring all students to its Embu campus, a move that disrupted his learning. Muiruki had to travel 75km to Embu for his classes.
“We had to pool resources together with colleagues to cut costs. I was lucky I had a car and every Saturday morning, we would travel to Embu and return on Sunday,” he says.
Eight years ago, Nyeri Town was home to many satellite campuses. These included those affiliated to Kenyatta, Mt Kenya, Karatina, University of Nairobi, Kenya Methodist, and Dedan Kimathi University of Technology (Dekut) universities.
However, by 2019, all the satellite campuses had been shut, forcing those wishing to further their studies in Nyeri to enroll in alternative institutions.
Satellite campuses gained prominence with the popularity of self-sponsored programmes. Institutions of higher learning have been riding on the rapid growth in self-sponsored evening classes that is part of the rush to get university education.
This brought about competition among universities to open satellite campuses in major towns in a bid to attract potential students. However, many of them have not been able to maintain the momentum forcing them to close down.
The main target is the working class, most of whom attend evening and weekend classes.
According to the Commission for University Education (CUE), while most satellite campuses were shut for failure to meet required standards, those in Nyeri were closed due to individual challenges.
CUE CEO Prof. Mwenda Ntarangwi said the agency’s mandate is aimed at safeguarding the integrity of higher education.
“We did not shut the Nyeri campuses, they died a natural death. And that is the challenge we have with these satellite campuses because when that happens, it interferes with studies,” he added.
Prof Ntarangwi said that satellite campuses faced numerous challenges which affect the quality of education. The challenges include lack of proper lecture rooms, libraries, seminar rooms or administrative areas.
CUE has previously blacklisted several institutions of higher learning in the country for failing to meet the minimum requirements to operate.
“The best alternative is for those willing to enrol to find universities closest to them or if possible, enrol in online programmes,” Prof Ntarangwi added.
The University of Nairobi’s vice chancellor, Prof Stephen Gitahi said that the institution officially closed down its physical location in Nyeri early last year at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The branch was opened to bring the services closer to their existing and potential students from Nyeri and mostly targeted the working class.
To achieve and maintain the quality of education for their students, the university would send lecturers all the way from Nairobi.
“It did not make sense paying rent for a building that we did not use since with Covid-19, physical class appearances were barred. We closed more than 10 satellite campuses around the country including Nyeri,” he said.
Back in 2015, CUE ordered the closure of eight satellite universities in Nairobi run by public universities citing that they had flouted rules governing the setting up of campuses.
Among those ordered to close included Egerton University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, Multimedia University of Kenya and South Eastern Kenya University campuses.
All these challenges, Prof Ntarangwi said, affected the quality of education in the institutions adding that the universities might also find themselves being unable to sustain the satellite campuses.
Sourced from Nation