The Task Ahead

By Lucy Mbuvi.

The School of Engineering recently got a new dean in office. Prof. Jackson Mwangi Mbuthia is the man at the helm of the faculty for the ones who are not aware. Meeting him gives you a reflection on an old adage. That a sense of fundamental intelligence is parceled out unequally at birth. And his is probably notable on first encounter and its measure is magnanimous. Some would call it Ruthless focus, I call it Sheer will born out of determination, talent and skillful experience of industry. He is a keen listener and observer and a fair judge of character. Above all he is friendly.

Who is Professor Mbuthia?
He is a Professor of Electrical Engineering at The University of Nairobi where he has been based more permanently since the year 2000. He currently teaches Control Engineering at the department. The Task Ahead Prof. Mbuthia holds a first class honours degree in BSc. Electrical and Electronic Engineering from the University of Nairobi between the years 1973-1976. He holds an MSc. In Engineering from the Imperial College of London and a Ph. D from the University of Manchester. He has vast experience in the field of Controls and Communication Software Design. He has been at pinnacle of reputable communication consultancies.

What does his election to office spell for the Engineering fraternity?
Professor Mbuthia brings vast experience in the management of the faculty and that he shall require this given the times which are ahead of him is out of question. For he shall require to use his experience to handle all the stakeholders of the school of engineering to bring about the feeling of inclusivity especially in the student body which more often than not lack the patience of the age in matters that require careful attention.

He is taking over at a time when students from Geo-spatial and Bio- systems engineering are agitated by the seemingly slow process of accreditation of their degree programs. He is however confident that the matter is being handled effectively at the moment and is keen to bringing a speedy conclusion to this matter soonest.

Prof. Mbuthia also takes over the faculty of Engineering at a time when restructuring is being done at the School of Engineering with the introduction of the hallowed Petroleum Engineering degree program. In the wake of this knowledge and the exciting prospects of brilliant future held by Petroleum Engineers, the introduction of this degree program is going to cause a commotion in the numbers it is going to attract. Despite it being young, it can easily edge out the native engineering discipline in terms of the numbers. This is feasibly going to fall under the professor as he is in charge of the faculty under which it is established.

Yet that may not exactly be the challenge- the tall order ahead of the experienced professor is how he shall handle the infrastructural need of the situation ahead of him. He shall also be keen on getting round the EBK, at least justly to fast track the accreditation of this new course without further delay. And if this goes on as anticipated, a legacy of efficiency he shall finally add up his sleeve.

It is not a question that The University of Nairobi wants to be the premier institution in the region to offer this course to students and they shall look up to him to define the footsteps they shall follow to achieve this. With the EBK keen on ensuring quality in the delivery of the courses, he is tasked to equipping this new course to the satisfactory levels of this regulatory body. If so successfully done he shall have succeeded in dealing with the snarl up that is associated with the accreditation of new programs in the school of engineering.

In accordance to the Summary Report on Education, Skills and Training Needs to Kenya's Emerging Upstream and Oil and Gas sector conducted by Africa Oil Corp and Lundin Foundation, there is apparently no tailored curriculum or course work that is focused on the oil and gas sector currently at any University in Kenya, which the outgoing former CAE Principal and DVC Finance and Administration Prof. Eng. BNK Njoroge pointed out is the work of the University curriculum developers in association with other industrial stakeholders. With the other reports indicating that poor quality of education is attributed to low numbers of lecturers that is in the present courses, the dean shall have to ensure that the nay sayers are disapproved by bringing on board the right people who can deliver in a good way.

The report identifies The University of Nairobi and Kenyatta University as institutions bearing support infrastructure that can be used to implement this program in the country. Other institutions that could be used as training centers are Technical University of Kenya and Technical University of Mombasa. The stakeholders pointed out besides the institutions of learning include The National Oil Corporation of Kenya (NOCK), Ministry of Energy and Petroleum amongst other industrial players.

The delivery of these programs shall definitely have an impact on the service delivery to the Kenyan Petroleum Industry and therefore must be tailored to reflect the future needs and expectations of the industry as it grows. The faculty shall therefore rely on the Dean' s guidance and influence on these issues that are not only an issue in the academic circles but clearly at the heart of our National Blue prints- Vision 2030.

From most University websites, Petroleum Engineering has a total of over 50 units spread over a 4 year period. More of outside the conventional Engineering units pursued by most of us there is Petroleum Design, Reservoir Engineering and Geology. Common engineering units may include Engineering Thermodynamics and Fluid Mechanics. From The Texas Technical University website, this courses spans across a total of 132 hours with a total of 43 units in four years- so yes, it's doable.

That aside, Prof. Mbuthia assumes office at a time when The University of Nairobi School of Engineering is positioning itself as the training ground for engineers and other technical staff in the engineering discipline. This is with reference to the multi-million equipment shipped in the School courtesy of The African Development Bank. The organizational balance of all the activities fall under him as the head of the faculty. This face lift is important as it not only improves the National Training capacity, but for us students, we are keen on using the new equipment as soon as the installation is over.

It is therefore true that his work is clearly cut out. And that as all Presidents age during their term, he will surely turn grey, at least literally by the time all is done. All of us shall have had our expectations fulfilled or most of them at the very least.

We shall be looking up to the dean to improve the general delivery of the courses in the various departments. There is a general feeling of introduction of Design as a unit in the either Third or Fourth year of engineering, especially in Electrical and Electronic Engineering to sharpen the prowess of the students in practical design work before their fifth year. Introduction of lecturer tutorial groups would be most appreciated.

Despite the issue of fee being a directive from above, it an issue that we have submitted before the dean a plea for him to work out a plan which may help students who are not capable of raising the fee at the time of need.

Among other issues, there is an air of expectations with the new dean in office. Students in the Mechanical and Electrical Departments are generally hoping that The Fabricating Laboratory can be made more accommodating in both the physical facilities as well as staff to help willing students to work on their projects without necessarily feeling left out in one way or another.

Prof Mbuthia takes over from the well renowned Civil Engineering Professor, Patts Odira who completed his term as the dean. He was instrumental in steering the faculty for almost five years. As Prof. J. M. Mbuthia comes in to roll out his plan we wish him all the best and look forward to working with him as the Student body and The Engineering Students association at large.

Finally, we all have our journeys to make; and no man can walk away from his own story- it is your chance to write down yours Professor. As time unveils the mysteries bourne by the future, we wish you the best of luck.