Society / Education
Thursday, 22 Sep 2016 12:11 EAT
All academic testimonials to be awarded at Moi University at today’s graduation ceremony could be declared illegal if the legal suit of a resident of Uasin Gishu County had his way in court.
While the resident who is currently at the Kisumu Law Courts was initially fighting to have the graduation ceremony halted, it seems that he won’t get the required orders. Even if he did, he would likely not succeed in serving his papers on the administrators of Moi University who have already taken their places at the Graduation Square, with tight security.
Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago, his Elgeyo Marakwet counterpart Alex Tolgos and a section of MPs from the North Rift region led big riots at Moi University on Tuesday against last week’s appointment of Prof. Laban Ayiro as the university’s acting vice chancellor.
Prof. Ayiro took over the college on Monday and is expected to act for three months, during which time a substantive vice chancellor will be appointed. Former VC Richard Mibey, whose second term had expired, handed over the reigns to Prof. Ayiro.
It is believed that the cabinet secretary for education, Dr. Fred Matiangi, made the appointment in order to forestall an expected vacuum at the university which would affect the graduation which had been planned for months.
However, after the national outcry over Governor Mandago’s protests, the group opposing the appointment of Prof. Ayiro has now adopted the legal route. And they have what on paper seems to be a strong case.
Yesterday, a resident, Geoffrey Kiptanui, filed a judicial petition against the Cabinet Secretary and University Council, arguing that Prof. Ayiro was appointed without following the due process, and that he is not legally in office to officiate at today’s graduation.
Kiptanui’s suit cites legal requirements that a university’s graduation ceremony can only be conducted by a chancellor and substantive Vice Chancellor. The university's current chancellor is Prof. Miriam K. Were, who will be presiding over the ceremony.
In the absence of one, as in the case at Moi University now, the University Council is required to appoint an Acting Vice Chancellor who should not come from within the university faculty.
While the Education Secretary is the one to gazette such an appointment, the acting vice chancellor should not be a current member of the respective university community as Prof. Ayiro is.
Kiptanui’s prayers were received at a magistrate’s court and the magistrate gave him the go ahead to file a substantive plaint at the Industrial Court in Kisumu. A source at the Kisumu Law Courts told the Kenya Free Press that Kiptanui is currently processing his paperwork there.
Moi University’s 32nd graduation ceremony is already underway, meaning that should the case succeed, the university may be forced to recall all the awards that will be issued today. Some 4,569 graduands are lined up for various awards, including 23 doctorates, 165 Masters and thousands of undergraduate degrees and diplomas. The university will not issue any undergraduate certificate-level awards in today's ceremony.
The case’s success would imply that Prof. Ayiro was not properly in office and therefore should never have presided over a graduation ceremony. The case raises questions of unprecedented magnitude. For example, if the court rules that Prof. Ayiro was not properly in office, would the entire graduation ceremony and executive decisions leading up to it be nullified, or would the outcome invalidate only the certificates awarded, in which case the university would simply re-issue new testimonials?
This is considering that a graduation ceremony is more than a practical ritual given the many academic and administrative decisions that come with it. The convocation of academic awards is bestowed on the university as a whole, with the chancellor as the figurehead.
The protests by Governor Mandago and his allies have received wide condemnation and triggered advocacy on a national scale. Yesterday, student leaders at Moi University’s Nairobi Campus condemned the protests and demanded that the leaders involved be punished for incitement.
Led by their chairman Edwin Kigoli, the students said the leaders went against Article 10 of the constitution which promotes equity, social values, non-discrimination, human rights and equality.
Kigoli Prof. Ayiro’s appointment was “pure and based on merit”, adding, “It does not matter who the VC is or where he or she is from as long as he or she has resolved to work hard and be focused.”
The writer is the news editor of the Kenya Free Press