There was pomp and colour as the University of Nairobi celebrated its 50 years of existence since its inception in 1970.
On December 10, 1970, Kenya’s first president, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta led the nation in celebrating the birth of the nation’s first national university at the Great Court and was installed as Chancellor having been awarded the first honorary degree of Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa). On December 10, 2020, from the same grounds, the Chancellor, Dr. Vijoo Rattansi led the University community and stakeholders in celebrating 50 years of academic excellence.
The celebrations were a true reflection of the pride the University’s staff and students, past and present, have and carry everyday of their lives. Five decades of alumni shared memories of their times at the University. From the cohort that enjoyed three course meals at the students’ cafeteria, had laundry services to the decade that fought the KANU regime, each alumnus shared their experiences with some leaving the guests in stitches.
“From our humble beginning, we have hewn the academic behemoth that is the present day University of Nairobi,” said the Chancellor, Dr. Vijoo Rattansi. “Over the 50 years we have gone round the sun, we have built an enduring legacy of excellence. As a training institution, we have contributed immensely to the country’s human capital and in doing so, contributed novel ideas and technologies for the betterment of our nation. This has been made possible through the blood, toil, sweat and tears of great men and women; the Solomonic wisdom of our valiant leaders; the outstanding contribution, concerted focus and patriotism of our members of staff and countless man hours and stellar output of generations upon generations of fine students.”
The Chair of Council, Prof. Julia Ojiambo, reflected on her University of Nairobi story, having graduated from this institution with a Diploma in Education during its nascent years.
“The University of Nairobi has come a long way, but the remaining journey is much longer and perhaps more challenging than what is already covered. The celebrations marking 50 years bring back fond memories that we created with fellow students and later with colleagues in academia,” said Prof. Ojiambo. “The five decades of reforms at this institution have come with many achievements in teaching, research, development and consultancy and we are proud of where we are. Our challenge today is to prepare the ground for a greater future for those who will come behind us. The University has set its eyes on becoming a world class centre of academic and research excellence and we must begin to make that happen today. In another few years, our actions today will be revisited by the next generation trying to find their way. Let us leave a legacy that we can be proud of. Let us make the University of Nairobi more prosperous.”
The Vice-chancellor, Prof. Stephen Kiama, shared his joy as he witnessed 50 years of UoN.
“I am equally pleased to be the Vice-chancellor of this great university at this historic moment when the University is being weaned from the young universities category –Universities that are aged fifty years and below. I wish to celebrate all those who have been honored and given the responsibility to carry the torch of this great university as Vice-chancellors,” said Prof. Kiama. “No doubt that the half-century history of the University of Nairobi is intertwined with the history of our Great nation, the republic of Kenya. It is a history that we are all proud of. A history of a young nation confronted with basic challenges of illiteracy, poverty and diseases.”
Further, Prof. Kiama highlighted the University of Nairobi’s significant contribution to the Africanization of the workforce in the immediate post-independence period. He noted that UoN has laid a strong foundation for building the current large, competent and skilled manpower in all fields of specialization that Kenya is known for today.
“Our biggest contribution to this country is the human capital,” added Prof. Kiama. “Today, the Alumni of this University hold strategic positions in the Public Service, Private enterprise and in literary all sectors of the economy and political spheres. One would be right to pose a question. What would Kenya be like without the University of Nairobi?”
Some of the guests who spoke at the ceremony include Mrs. Mildred Owuor who was representing the University of Nairobi Alumni Association, Dr. Frank Njenga who represented the 1970 to 1980 cohort, Hon. Ekwee Ethuro who spoke on behalf of the 1980 to 1990, Commissioner Dr. Mercy Deche who represented the 1990-2000 cohort, Doris Wangui Githua who represented the 2000 to 2010 cohort and Qs. Mary Kivata who spoke on behalf of 2010 to 2020 alumnus.