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From humble beginning to ICT savvy university

Computer outreach initiative offered certificate of participation; MKU trains up to PhD level

Mount Kenya University is the university that technology built. Information and communication technology has remained a powerful ally of the university since Dr Simon Gicharu, the founder, made tentative steps to build an academic institution in 1996. From a computer outreach then, MKU has scaled the heights of ICT.

At inception, the Computer Outreach Centre had just one programme in computer packages. Participants were awarded certificates of participation. Today it not only offer programmes in ICT but also uses the technology to deliver education to thousands of students spread across the world. With 10,000 students, MKU’s Digital Varsity is one of the largest private universities providing access to education in East and Central Africa through this medium. It has been a dizzying rise to zenith of ICT use.

One man who recalls this epic tale is the Right Reverend Joseph Maina, the Moderator of the African Christian Churches and Schools. “Gicharu approached the church way back in 1996 to request if he could be allowed to use space in our churches to offer computer training classes,” he remembers. “He said, ‘give me space for a class.

I will bring computers. If the business makes a profit, we will share with ACC & S. If I decide to move on, I will leave the computers to the church.’ “He brought computers and teachers. They started operating in our branches in Kigumo, Gichagi-ini, Gituro, Mwarano, Ichagi-ini and Kandara, among others. “In all these places, generators had to be carried around because electricity was not available in most of rural Murang’a then.”

Rt Rev Maina says Dr Gicharu then founded Thika Institute of Technology (TIT), the forerunner of MKU. “He came back to Thika and put more efforts in the small institute he already had there. He was able to build TIT from then. I admire him for his determination because even though the computer outreach initiative did not succeed as envisioned, he soldered on and went on to build the great institution that is Mount Kenya University.

He has a great mind. But back then, no one could have imagined that the computer outreach idea would germinate into a university.” When Dr Gicharu came up with the computer outreach initiative, the development of Information Communication Technology (ICT) both Mobile Telephony and Computer Technology had started gaining momentum in rural and urban centres. In the year 2000, Dr. Gicharu established Thika Institute of Technology, a tertiary college offering management and computer training programmes. In the same year the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology registered the Thika Institute of Technology, TIT.

In order to remain relevant with the training needs of the society, the institute initiated training programmes in the fields of paramedical, information technology and business/entrepreneurship education in the year 2002. In the year 2005, the Institute became the 1st private institution in Kenya to be allowed to train pharmaceutical technologists by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board of the Ministry of Health.

In 2006, the Commission for Higher Education (CHE) validated and approved the institute’s request for collaboration with Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) to offer both diploma and degree programmes. The Institute continued to work closely with the Commission for Higher Education (CHE) in line with the stipulated guidelines for establishing a privately funded university.

In May 2008, the Commission for Higher Education (CHE) after verifying all the requirements as stipulated in the guidelines of establishing a privately funded University (1989 Rules) establishment of a full-fledged privately funded chartered university called Mount Kenya University following grant of a Letter of Interim Authority.

The MKU Digital varsity is a new students learning experience and it’s the evidence of integration between learning and technology at the university. MKU’s Digital Learning has a number of state-of-the-art features. One of these powerful features is the ability to offer group collaboration sites.

These sites are easy to set up, and users easily serve themselves. On many campuses, collaboration sites have become so popular with faculty and students that the learning environment popularly known as Learning management systems, has had an increased rates of adoption, with little resistance than expected.

Collaboration sites have diverse uses: they can be used by researchers who need to work with their colleagues around the world, faculty engaged in governance committee work can also make use of it, and so can students working with research committees, study groups, or activity clubs.