There was pomp and colour as Prof. Stephen Gitahi Kiama was officially installed as the eighth Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nairobi. Prof. Kiama takes over from Prof. Peter Mbithi whose term ended in 2019. 

In his inaugural speech, Prof. Kiama promised to institute reforms and steer the ship through the turbulent waters. 

“The University of Nairobi faces tough times and we must act decisively. We need to institute reforms,” he said. “We need to institute financial reforms, governance reforms even as we make key decisions based on data. We need a data management system. We need to re-engineer our business processes.” 

On financial reforms, the Vice-Chancellor promised to take a three-step approach to fix the leaking ship, trim our coat according to our size and grow the bottom-line. 

“I will eradicate internal wastage, attract the best students and the best minds. We shall trim our coat according to our size, even as we negotiate with the government to increase funding,” he added. 

On internationalization, the widely published Professor of Veterinary Medicine pledged to attract the best students from abroad and the best minds in academia. He promised to grow the staff and students exchange programs with the best universities in the world.  He will create an environment that fosters intellectual curiosity, accommodates divergent views and together we shall create a university that fosters knowledge creation.  

Regarding the global pandemic that has rendered brick and mortar classroom learning impossible, the newly installed Vice-Chancellor challenged staff and students to embrace the new normal. 

“Online teaching and learning are here with us, forced by COVID-19, let us embrace it. We cannot sit and wait for the virus to disappear to resume normal learning. We may wait forever,” he warned.

The Vice-Chancellor urged staff to embrace teamwork. “I am not a magician; I cannot play God. I will lend a listening ear to you. I will make decisions grounded on the rule of law. With your support, we are set to reach the promised land. Together we can seize the tide and secure our ventures. Let us retreat to our stations of work, embrace teamwork: Unitate et Labore.”

A strong family man, Prof. Kiama paid tribute to his wife and children. He paid tribute to his parents, who persevered greatly to see him through school.  

Education Cabinet Secretary, Prof. George Magoha, endorsed the Vice-Chancellor saying that he has a good track record in fundraising and building wonderful infrastructure. He cited the Wangari Maathai Institute as an example of the good work, the incoming Vice-Chancellor had accomplished during his tenure as the Director of Wangari Maathai Institute. He urged him to take good care of the teaching faculty. 

“Ensure the professor is happy and working. If you take good care of the professor, he will take good care of the students and you shall succeed. Leadership requires teamwork and team spirit. Always empower your teammates to work for you,” said Prof. Magoha.

The Chancellor, Dr Vijoo Rattansi, challenged Prof. Kiama to build a university for the people, by the people as advised by the First President of the USA, Abraham Lincoln.  Despite the daunting challenges, she challenged Prof. Kiama to be a dealer of hope.  

“A leader is a dealer in hope. Do not forget that you carry the great sunshine of hope for many. May you inspire your team to do the impossible.”

Chair of Council Prof. Julia Ojiambo urged the Vice-Chancellor to embrace teamwork. She challenged the Vice-Chancellor to re-engineer university systems and processes. “The task at hand is daunting, the burden of expectation is heavy. Please rally the troops and deliver the change”, she quipped. She pledged to support the Vice-Chancellor.  

Prof. Kiama was installed as the eighth Vice-Chancellor in a ceremony that was witnessed by his three predecessors: Prof. Francis Gichaga, Prof. Crispus Kiamba and Prof. Peter Mbithi.

The installation ceremony was held in Taifa Hall at the Main Campus on June 5, 2020.

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