By M&M Reporter
Kenyan universities have been urged to offer direction on socially divisive issues that have threatened to split Kenyans in the recent past.
Participants at a conference on science and religion last week noted that in-depth research could help move the country forward whenever there are major differences in opinion on key social issues that have in the past derailed policy initiatives, some of which have been aimed at saving lives.
Among the divisive issues that have split Kenyans in the recent past are polio and tetanus vaccines which pitted a segment of religious leader against the government.
Kenyans are also split in the middle in the genetic modification of organisms debate.
Prof Francis Muregi of Mt Kenya University said universities could play a critical role in guiding both the public and policy makers on such areas that have proved divisive.
“Within the past few years, the country has experienced heated debates on diverse subjects such as on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), and immunization campaigns for Polio and Tetanus vaccines. A section of the Church has opposed immunization of children alleging it is a form unconsented birth control which leaves many Kenyans unsure on whether to embrace immunization drives or not.
“It is high time universities guided the masses on such matters of public interest, making the latter active players and not spectators. Universities must demolish the silos that hinder interdisciplinary interactions,” he said.
Prof Muregi spoke during a conference convened jointly by Mt Kenya University and the Christian and Scientific Association of Kenya (CSAK), which is a professional, non- sectarian, non-political association geared towards facilitating synergetic interaction between science and Christian faith. The Association is jointly funded by the Templeton World Charity and Foundation, Inc and Mount Kenya University.
Prof Muregi, who is a CSAK member said the association was founded with a view to address conflicts between religious actors and government policy makers.
During the conference, MKU Vice Chancellor Stanley Waudo said universities had to make continuous investments in the area of research to stay competitive.
Waudo said the investments were an urgent need today when universities are increasingly finding themselves hard pressed to innovate as the number of students qualifying to join universities dwindle following reforms in the education sector.
“The competition for students and academic resources, particularly the human resource requires that universities develop competitive advantages that are unique enough to attract students and staff. Developing competitive advantages requires assembling and consolidating academic resources to support effective implementation of the University mission and delivery of high quality teaching, research and services,” said Waudo.
“In recognition of the importance of developing and sustaining adequate competitive advantages that can facilitate its sustainability in a highly competitive higher education sector, the University (MKU) embraces the principle of continual improvement. The focus on continual improvement has made it possible for the University to develop adequate academic resources and competitive advantages.”
MKU founder and chairman Prof Simon Gicharu said the university had made investments in ensuring that research published by its scholars and students is original.
“We invest $15,000 (Sh1.5 million) every year towards the license of the anti- plagiarism software, TurnitIn, to ensure that we safeguard academic integrity,” he said.