Although he rose through the ranks at the Ministry of Education to be a deputy director, Laban Ayiro was little known until September 2016 when Education secretary Fred Matiang’i picked him to head Moi University as acting vice-chancellor. He was replacing Richard Mibey, but the transition was tumultuous.
Immediately Prof Ayiro was picked, the quiet life of the educationist would come to an end when regional politicians — including Uasin Gishu governor Jackson Mandago and his Elgeyo Marakwet counterpart Alex Tolgos — opposed his appointment. There were street protests with claims that the county leaders were pushing for somebody from the locality to head the university.
According to the politicians, the Education ministry had overlooked three finalists for the job to pick the soft-spoken Prof Ayiro who did not apply for the post.
Since his appointment, Prof Ayiro has got two contract extensions; the first for three months and the latest, announced this week, for six months to allow time for a newly constituted council to embark on the recruitment of a substantive vice-chancellor. Although people who have worked with him closely say that Prof Ayiro would have been reluctant to look for a post that would thrust him into “another stressful job while he had retired from civil service,” he recently said he would apply for the post when it is re-advertised, showing a possible change of mind.
But why is Prof Ayiro getting one contract extension after another? “He is a seasoned administrator who’s neutral; that’s how he got the acting VC job and one of the reasons he’s getting contract extensions,”an official said, adding the ministry had “good reasons” for rejecting the three names forwarded to it. Prof Ayiro launched his teaching career in 1977 as an assistant teacher at Namulungu Secondary School in Western Kenya, where he worked for five years.
‘‘I just do my work and always put God first in everything I do. I have self-conviction. When I put my mind on something I must do it,” said Prof Ayiro.
Should he be appointed as a substantive VC when the post is re-advertised, he said, he plans to turn Moi University into the best institution of higher learning in the country within five years.
At Moi University, Prof Ayiro has been fighting a war with the Council for Legal Education (CLE) which has challenged the university’s suitability to train lawyers, a battle that started before he rose to the helm.
This week, the CLE released a fresh list of Bachelor of Laws trainers but Moi University was missing even though last April the court nullified the council’s order saying its mandate was limited to setting standards. The CLE appealed the verdict.
Prof Ayiro said the council’s decision to exclude the institution from offering the programme was “not only illegal... but is also a mischievous attempt at subverting the judgment against which it has chosen to exercise its right of appeal.” The university is considering taking legal action.
In the recent appointments, Dr Jeremiah Ntoloi Koshal was named the Moi University council chairman while members are Hamisi Dena, Hilda Muchunku, Elizabeth Obel Lawson, Vincent Chokaa and Daniel K. Rono. They will be inaugurated on April 6.
This week Prof Ayiro told the Business Daily that when he took over he decided to engage all stakeholders. The institution was in a financial crisis. An audit report had revealed loss of Sh1 billion and he developed a two-phase plan for revival.
“The first phase was the revival of the institution; its physical, spiritual and value systems, and the second phase was to consolidate the momentum of moving forward,” said Prof Ayiro.
He said there were no personal differences between him and the local political leadership except that of succession which has been resolved.
Born in Sabatia, Vihiga County, the educationist has been a consultant with the Ministry of Education in the ongoing curriculum review contracted by Unicef. “My interest is to see a curriculum that sits on the ICT platform and also look at areas of soft skills and values. We also want learning to go back to the owners, that is students and pupils,” said Prof Ayiro about the education reforms that will focus on competency as opposed to passing exams.
He unwinds by listening to gospel and traditional music, saying gospel music is a form of worship. He also likes watching football and supports both Manchester United and Arsenal, the English Premier League titans who are sworn rivals.