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What you didn’t know about Prof Stephen Kiama, UoN’s new VC

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(Prof Stephen Gitahi Kiama holding the hands of President Uhuru Kenyatta)

If you thought you knew the new University of Nairobi’s vice-chancellor his intellectualness Prof Stephen Gitahi Kiama then you must rethink it.

The distinguished scholar from Nyeri, Othaya area, trounced heavy weights such Prof Benard Kimani Njoroge, Prof Madara Ogot, Prof Patricia G Kameri Mbote and Prof Isaac Meroka Mbeche in an interview that saw him score highly, a standard that opened a new precedence as no other Vice Chancellor in the history of UoN has scored that high. Other Profs who could not match his sagacity include Prof. Solomon Igosangwa Shibairo, Prof. Kareithi Ruth Wanjiru Nduati and Prof. Elijah I. Omwenga.

He joined the prestigious University of Nairobi at the age of 22 back in 1986 to study veterinary medicine. Graduated in 1990. He then proceeded to pursue his master of Veterinary Anatomy degrees from University of Nairobi and graduated in 1995.

The ever smiling Prof and comrades person then flew to Switzerland to pursue Doctor of Philosophy in Structural Biology from University of Bern, where he graduated in 2001.

His humbleness the Prof started out as assistant lecturer at the University of Nairobi after his graduation in 1990 and was later promoted to Lecturer (1995), Senior Lecturer (2002), Associate Professor (2012) and Professor (2016). He has a cumulative 29 years of research and teaching experience at various institutions of higher learning including University of Nairobi, St. Andrews University in Scotland, Free University of Berlin in Germany, University of Bern in Switzerland, University of Witwatersrand in South Africa and University of Ghana in Ghana. 

While serving as an assistant lecturer he ushered in a series of Kiama-led endeavours to better infrastructure as well as develop Kenya’s human resource by assisting students to obtain sponsorships for their master’s and PhD studies. Dozen of students have benefitted with this programme. The latest group left the country late last year.

Prof Kiama’s collaborative efforts has seen the University of Nairobi raise over Sh1 billion from well-wishers, donors and sponsors towards various programmes, including the Wangari Maathai Institute where he served as founding director.

According to his resume, the good professor has demonstrated experience in networking, fundraising and resource mobilization. He writes, “Between 1994 and 1995, I was in a team that acquired the first veterinary computer complete with a Zeiss light microscope together with a camera, a computer with an image analyser programme, high resolution monitor and two computer printers,”

He went on, “In 2003, with support of my mentor Prof Peter Gehr the Institute of Anatomy director at Switzerland’s University of Bern, we obtained 30 light microscopes for the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine laboratory.”

Under the ‘Stabilising Kenya by Solving Forest-related Conflicts’ research project, he managed to get full scholarships for 16 post-doctorate, PhD and MSc students.

Prof Kiama serves as UoN’s deputy vice chancellor in charge of human resource and administration since February 2019. Before then, he served as the Principal, College of Agriculture and Veterinary Sciences. He has 15 years of administrative experience at a senior level in the basic and higher education management.

It’s this son of Nyeri who is keenly following the footsteps of Former President Mwai Kibaki that chaired the University Executive Board committee on record management that oversaw digitisation of student records and launch of a biometric student platform.

The 56-year-old veterinary surgeon has supervised 12 PhD and 14 master’s students who completed their studies at Makerere University, Rhodes University and the University of Nairobi. He is now supervising three.

He has co-authored more than 140 journal and conference publications and serves as the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) chairman, a body that draws its membership from deans and principals of universities across East Africa.

Will he beat Prof Magoha’s records?

The man who holds University of Nairobi close to his heart has chaired and sat in several committees that reviewed as well as developed curriculums for various diploma, degree and master’s degree courses. And with an aim of enhancing UoN’s global appeal, Prof Kiama was part of a team that formulated and negotiated several memorandum of understanding pacts with foreign universities, global institutions and foundations.

Prof was part of the fundraising for design and construction project committee for the Sh1.4 billion Wangari Maathai Institute and the 22-floor UoN Tower worth Sh2.3 billion.

The dwindling hope at the university of Nairobi that was almost taking the prestigious University to its knees will now be rejuvenated with the pick of Prof Kiama as the boss. The work before him is huge as his predecessor Prof Mbithi had little management skills which saw thousands of students prioritizing other institutions of higher learning thus giving UoN of Nairobi a run for their money.

Students fraternity hope to see their fellows who were suspended and or expelled be reinstated to complete their studies, student’s union strengthened and allow for democracy during elections, and their studies not interrupted.

The staff and other university community are keen on seeing the new VC continuing with his mobilisation and fundraising skills to see more funds channeled to the university to help in enhancing the university’s global appeal as a career development and must-go-for knowledge hub that offers industry-oriented programmes.

Many hope to see the new VC change UoN towers from offices to graduate school. He should fight to bring back resource in intellectuals. Also end exam cheating that is now rampant in the university.

It was long overdue for the prestigious university to have one of their own who studied in UoN right from undergraduate to take over since this shall inform his relationships for a flawless working relationship with staff and students to reduce the managerial misfortune witnessed in the past that gave the university a bad name.

It is now turn for Prof Kiama to return all the favours the university of Nairobi gave him. Let this son of Nyeri not forget that a comrade is ever right. Viva!

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