The establishment of a higher education open and distance learning knowledge base for decision makers in kenya

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The Study Approach

The analysis mainly embraced two approaches. The first approach was a documentary review of documents on open and distance education in higher education in Kenya. This covered study materials, and reports, study guides that give a gestalt view in a general context of the courses studied as well as information about examination schedules, contact programmes, students assignments and so forth.
The second approach included holding face-to-face discussions with some key stakeholders in open and distance education in higher education at the Universities of Nairobi, Kenyatta University, Egerton and Jomo-Kenyatta. These were deans whose faculties run DE programmes and course directors as well as a number of lecturers involved in teaching the courses. The discussions covered the management of the programmes, financing and key challenges. Interviews were held with key decision makers including the permanent secretary for education, director for education and Vice- Chancellors, deans and directors of institutes.
In Kenya, decision makers for open and distance higher education comprise the following:

  • The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.

  • The Vice-Chancellors of Universities in Kenya

  • Deans/Directors of the Institutes of Distance Education in universities.

  • Director of the African Virtual University located in two universities, Kenyatta and Egerton.

Although universities are supposed to be autonomous, they fall under the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology as stipulated in the Education Act of Parliament - 1968. Each university is established by an Act of parliament.

    1. Profiles and Institutional Setting of the Ministry of Science and

The Minister of Education, Science and Technology and the Permanent Secretary are responsible for implementing government policies of Education at all levels of education system. The Ministry of Education has sections which deal with various levels and components of Education such as:

  • University Education

  • Secondary Education

  • Primary Education

  • Teacher training colleges

  • Non-formal Education

  • HIV/AIDs in Schools

  • Special Education

It is unfortunate that there is no section of the Ministry of Education responsible for distance Education. Although the Kenya government is committed to distance education like any other government in Africa, there is no policy framework to oversee implementation of distance education in the universities. However, there are Acts of parliament and policy documents which recommended among others the implementation of institutions of distance education.
The first Government policy to address distance higher education was the Act of Parliament of 1966 which established the Board of Adult Education. The Kamunge Report of 1988, expressed satisfaction that the External Degree Programme offered by the University of Nairobi as an example of a successful Alternative and Continuing Education Programme that could be nationally accessed by eligible learners throughout the country. It also recommended that facilities for printing and recording of educational materials at the College of Adult and Distance Education be updated and expanded to cope with the growing demand for adult education through distance teaching (Republic of Kenya, 1988).
The Mungai Report of 1995 on its part recommended that the establishment of an open university similar to the ones operating in Britain, Hong Kong and Tanzania be considered as a way of extending university education to as many Kenyans as possible. The report, however, cautioned against basing the Open University on the current restrictive system practiced in the public universities. It was of the view that it should be based on innovative strategies aimed at meeting the needs of as many Kenyans as possible that desire university education. The public universities were asked to establish short courses for purposes of skills improvement and a source of generating income (Republic of Kenya, 1995).
The Koech Report (1999) hailed the external degree programme of the University of Nairobi as being particularly beneficial to serving teachers and other Kenyans in employment that would otherwise not have been able to enroll for university education on a full time basis. It recommended that the programmes be expanded in order to reach many deserving and qualified Kenyans. It also hailed parallel degree programmes that have helped individuals who had otherwise been barred from public university admission (Republic of Kenya, 1999).
Despite these recommendations by the important policy documents, DE programmes remain tiny components of higher education and government involvement is quite minimal.

    1. Institutional Setting of Distance Education in Public Universities in Kenya

Institutions of open distance learning tend to be institutes or faculties/units within public and private universities. Kenya has six public Universities and seven private Universities and each of them has components of distance education. This section focuses on two public Universities with major component of distance education, namely University of Nairobi and Kenyatta University.

(a) University of Nairobi

Following the establishment of the Board of Adult Education in 1966, the University of Nairobi took on a new challenge in the promotion of adult education. The Institute of Adult Studies was established as constituent of the University with a director in 1973 and it was moved to the Adult Studies Centre at Kikuyu.

The Institute of Adult Studies had four main sections, namely:

  • The Extra-Mural Division

  • The Adult Studies Centre at Kikuyu

  • The Radio/Correspondence Course Unit

  • The Training and Research Division

The Extra-Mural Division Centres were located in Nairobi, Kisumu, Mombasa, Nakuru, Nyeri and Kakamega, mainly the provincial towns. These centres arranged adult education activities including evening courses, seminars and public lectures. They prepared students for the then ‘O’ level (i.e. School Certificate) and ‘A’ level (i.e. Higher School Certificate) as well as subjects for professional examination such as Law, Personnel Management, Public Administration, Commerce, Business Administration, Auditing, Taxation, Computer Science, Economics, Psychology, Criminology and others. These courses were held on part-time basis especially in the evenings after work. It also organized seminars and courses for a wide range of occupations.
The Adult Studies centre at Kikuyu emphasized course designed to assist in national development. It was a residential centre accommodating about 60 students. The centre programmes ranged from a one-week to a one-year programme for groups such as councilors, trade union officers, women groups, police, prisons and army officers and others. There was a 9-month Diploma course in Adult Education, designed for people engaged in, or intending to undertake some form of professional Adult Education activity.

The Radio Correspondence Course Unit concentrated on upgrading courses for unqualified teachers jointly with the Kenya Institute of Education (KIE). Study outlines and study materials were sent to those who enrolled and radio programmes were broadcast weekly to supplement the instruction in the printed lessons.

The Training and Research Division was concerned with the training of Adult educators and research in adult education programmes and methods. The training programme, included a 3-month introductory course in Adult Education for relatively inexperienced full-time staff doing extension work, shorter courses for the Adult educators held either at the Adult Centre or in the provinces and a one-year course for a University Diploma in Adult Education.

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