The University of Nairobi received its ISO 9001-2000 certification this morning, at a feel-good ceremony in Taifa Hall. The Vice Chancellor, Prof. George Magoha, presided over the proceedings, at which the Guest of Honour was Dr. Sally Kosgey, Minister for Higher Education, Science and Technology.
In attendance were, among others, the University Chancellor (Dr. Joe Wanjui), the Chairman of the University Council (Mr. John Simba), two former Vice Chancellors (Prof. Francis Gichaga and Prof. Crispus Kiamba) and the two current Deputy Vice Chancellors. Professor Kiamba is the current Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Higher Education , Science and Technology.
Taifa Hall was full: with invited guests, the university's academic (including yours truly) and non-academic staff and students. The ceremony lasted just over an hour, after it got started at around ten.
The speeches were warm and good-natured. Everyone was in a celebratory mood, and wanted to have fun -- such as could be had. The Minister renewed acquaintances with her former colleagues here, mentioning in her speech Prof. Odingo and Mr. Jasper Okelo. She taught history here for a time some 28 years ago. Citing a recent encounter in Canada, the Chancellor, I thought, wanted to spur the university to help, in some way (which way I did not quite get) to clean up Nairobi River, which flows nearby.
The VC reported that the university's next cohort of graduands (due to graduate in December) would be the first in the university's history (did I hear him right?) to complete their studies without any interruption (due to previously common university closures occasioned by chronic student strikes). I have not checked the records, but that would mean, for the first time, four academic years of uninterrupted campus peace -- a period which roughly overlaps with 67% of Prof. Magoha's tenure as Vice Chancellor.
The Great Court was full of great white tents, and most of the celebrants proceeded there for refreshments after Taifa Hall. It was a warm sunny day.
Following so soon after the July 2008 Webometrics report, which ranked UoN first in the country, second in East Africa (after the University of Dar Es Salaam), and 25th in Africa, the ISO certification was reason enough for Prof. Magoha to assert that the University of Nairobi is the premier university in the region. I thought the Minister agreed. I agree.
The challenge will be to maintain the ISO certification -- with reviews being undertaken twice a year. I believe the university is up to the challenge, but sight must not be lost of the need to include academics more collegially and dialogically in the university's governance system -- and of the fact that they are both service providers and service users.