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Will President Uhuru's point man save Egerton University?

Maroa Nelson
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Cement tycoon Narendra Raval with President Uhuru Kenyatta in a past event [Source/PSCU]

President Uhuru Kenyatta, on February 22, through the official Kenya Gazette appointed multi-millionaire business mogul, Narendra Raval as the new Chancellor of Egerton University.

The successful philanthropists, who will be taking over from the outgoing 80-year-old Chancellor, Professor Shem Oyoo Wadiga, was born in 1962 in a small village in Gujarat, India, but migrated to Kenya in 1978 when he was 16 years old to work as a temple teacher.

'Guru Bhai', as known by many, got married to Neeta Raval who together began a small steel processing shop at Gikomba, but the little business later grew to the now Devki Group of Companies.

These companies include Devki Steel Mills Limited, Maisha Mabati Mills Limited, National Cement Companies Limited and Northwood Agencies Limited.

His appointment to the coveted position in the institution comes at a time when Egerton University is grappling with debts.

It is understood that Egerton, like several other universities, is hit by a cash crunch with reports showing that at one time, in May 2018, the university collected Sh122 million from staff as Sacco savings but never made the submissions.

Speaking on the institution's financial hitch, a don at the university, who sought anonymity, said they are hopeful the new sheriff will salvage the varsity.

 “The university is struggling to clear its huge debts. Although the new chancellor's duties are more of ceremonial, we hope we shall tap into his business acumen and look beyond Treasury allocations to boost our cash flow," said the don as quoted by Nation.

 A student leader who spoke to this writer also expressed concerns on the institution's stalled infrastructural projects.

"Some key projects such as proper pavements and buildings have stuck for a while now, we understand this is a world class institution but at this rate things are never the same as we thought. We hope the new Chancellor will bring a notable change and save this titanic from sinking completely," said the leader.

With Uhuru's appointment, the tycoon now joins an exclusive club of prominent Kenyan business leaders who have been appointed by the president to head government-owned universities.

They include steel and aluminum magnate Manu Chandaria (Chancellor of Technical University of Kenya), Equity Bank CEO James Mwangi (Chancellor Meru University), and logistics tycoon Peter Muthoka (Chancellor Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology).

According to the university statutes of Kenya, a chancellor plays a ceremonial role. He acts as an advisor to the Council.

They can also confer degrees and grant diplomas, certificates and other awards of the university. With Raval's appointment, only time will tell if he will turn around Egerton University.

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