Friday, November 12, 2010

Maseno University Vice Chancellor Prof. Fredrick Onyango calls it quit after a decade

The VC.
“This  perhaps will be the last time I speak to you, I told the senate and the council that there will be no more 5 years, bye” this is how The Maseno University VC Prof. Onyango bid farewell to students, departmental heads,  lecturers and exhibitors. This was on Saturday 6th November 2010 during the ICT open day at the graduation square.
“I run Maseno with efficiency and speed to bring it to its current status of respect, now I step aside for someone else who will be in by 1st February next year” the VC said.
In his speech that highlighted a decade as the head of Maseno University Prof. Onyango remembered that the former president his Excellency Daniel Arap Moi while meeting Japanese delegates told him of his appointment, an offer he took lightly until he got an official letter.
Prior to his appointment he was the deputy VC at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, JKUAT for 4 years after serving as a principal for 7 years at University of Nairobi.
“When I arrived Maseno was a university college for 11 years, it is sound management that gave the impetus for it to be a university recognized not only in Kenya but worldwide” He read in his speech.
He found salaries were overdue with Maseno staggering with a debt of Ksh. 200 million. The first thing he did was having an audit report to check the financial loopholes. Although some members of the staff went against the audit it provided checks and balance on accounts
“Although I have a hard face, my heart is soft for efficiency and accountability” The VC said in a diplomatic twist.
He proudly said that the establishment of the Varsity School of Medicine to be open next academic year came along way from a two bed hospital. Construction for the school is underway with the expansion of the hospital which now caters for students and locals.
He said through a US medical professor he acquired ARV long before they come to Kenya “This helped curb HIV/AIDS menace in the country”
The Entrepreneur
With Maseno having only College and Siriba campuses he realized the only way to cut the huge debt and increase the income for expansion was through entrepreneurship.
This saw Maseno buy the Varsity plaza and Hotel Royale in Kisumu City as a source of income. The hotel which was bought for Ksh. 82 million was renovated and re-habilitated to Kisumu Hotel.
This income and others from activities like sustainable farming helped rehabilitated the Kilimanjaro Hostel, built New Sunrise and Vet Farm hostels with the former being for self catering.
The university too went on to open campuses in Kisumu, Homa Bay and Nairobi.
“Kisumu was the only city without a university making our varsity plaza to serve residents and the West Kenya region” VC said filling the demand was beneficial.
The only university under the Equator with IT
Perhaps the VC’s most outstanding record in the decade is making Maseno University to provide undergraduate degrees with IT. It is the only university in the country with the offer making students branch in many job offers like banking.
Most distracters brushed him as being too ambitious and wondering about the funding.
“I envisioned Maseno producing all rounded students with IT to increase their job market chances and be abreast with technology” He said that the erstwhile distracterss were belated on the benefits.
The next graduation will produce the second lot of IT students.
This passion made the Professor have his farewell speech during the university ICT open day where he official launched the10 Wi-Fi hotspots across the Siriba and College campus.
The open day attracted exhibitors like Microsoft East Africa, Orange, YU, Equity Bank, Opera Crew, Compulynx and Massatech amongst others.
The chief guest was Mr. Mark Matunga an officer with Microsoft Eastern and Southern Africa. He congratulated the VC on his IT policy in the university.
Prof Onyango lauded former minister and MP of Rarieda MP Raphael Tuju who offered Ksh. 3 million and resources to help built the tuition block in Siriba campus which has the computer department, computer labs and 6 lecture halls.

Hon Tuju helped the university acquire its first 100 computers.

As the VC for a decade the Professor’s attracted a share of controversy by his stand of speaking his mind and being meticulous in leadership.
“I don’t have time to gossip, I was never raise to be a gossiper I just tell one my mind no matter the outcome” he said amid rapture from the audience.
His hard face, soft heart stance made students, staffs and colleagues find two conflicting persons. As some dread and avoid him at all cost some people find him amicable.
The acquisition of the Kisumu Hotel brought controversy when in reacting to rumors auditors found the value to be 14M more at 96M. Government auditors, parliament and a section of the press wanted the overdue money be refunded in stamp duty.
He narrates how the auditors ended up checking his rural home; he showed them that he offered consultancies to organizations like UN.
In a streak of defiance he says “when they found nothing I told them to go to rumor mongers for the stamps since I didn’t call for their services as auditors”

The second controversy saw the 360 room New Sunrise hostels be named Tsunami when fire gutted a block down.   A section of press called the new hostel a death bed not seeing the room shortage they averted.
The hostel construction makes the university provide housing to both JAB and parallel students at first come first serve basis while some Varsities only offer housing to JAB students.
In another case the parliament was involved when Hon. Tuju and the VC were accused of embezzling funds. What was not said is that the first World Bank construction of the computer project was mismanaged.
Hon. Tuju stopped the funding although his initiative was a success.
The last controversy almost caused the Prof. Fredrick Onyango’s life.
“Me together with some senior Profs went on tour to check the building of the Vet Farm before some vagabonds armed with pangas and spears, and with privy knowledge of our visit came and surrounded us” the scholar recalled how their lives were at risk.

What saved them was a security personnel who shot into the air and sacred off the attackers.
The conflict on ownership of the land made the Emuhaya MP Wilberforce Ottichilo to accuse him in parliament of building ‘a Berlin wall.’
“This never stopped the construction as the title deed shows that the land belongs to Maseno University” he says with finality.
In his final word the Professor challenges the VCs and their deputies to start a kitty for needy students. He challenges the Higher Education Loans Board, HELB to change to a student bank with students tailored products to increase services.
He advises defaulters of HELB to pay up to help more needy students.

The event and farewell culminated with the Vice Chancellor’s lunch for all students.

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