For four years now, Noelle Kamau* has been knocking on doors hoping one would open to let him practice as an engineer.
The impediment has always been a lack of clearance by the Engineers Board Kenya (EBK), the regulatory body for engineers in the country.
Now working as a plumber, the Water and Environmental Engineering graduate from Egerton University says it has been years of psychological torture.
One of his former classmates says he is grounded at home assisting in farming after growing weary of knocking on doors and landing menial jobs.
Yet another classmate says she has been freelancing in the private sector and agonises on the day the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) will come knocking.
This is the story of 200 engineering graduates from Egerton University that have been denied accreditation by the EBK on grounds that the programme is not registered. The group petitioned Parliament to intervene in their case and it was agreed that they go back to class for remedial classes starting this September.
“We are in September and there has been no official communication from the university which makes us wonder if the five years of pursuing the course were in vain,” says Juliet Atieno* who currently does online writing for clients.
By the time the group graduated in 2019, the programme had not received approval from the EBK following gaps in its curriculum content.
In March, Vice-Chancellor Isaac Kibwage told the legislators the university had since reviewed the course to meet EBK requirements for Bachelor of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEEN).
He committed that the university would offer eight remedial courses at no extra cost starting September 2022 for bridging the gap between WEEN and CEEN.
The eight courses include Highway Geometric Design, Geotechnical Engineering, Structural Masonry Design, Pavement Design, Foundation Engineering, Theory of Structures III, Transport Engineering II and Urban Drainage & Flood Protection.
Academic Registrar Prof Mwanarusi said, in a response to a student’s request for an update concerning enrolling for the remedial courses, that the revised curriculum is undergoing internal processing before it is forwarded to CUE for a name change.
“Once the process is concluded, you will be notified so that you and other affected students can enrol for the additional courses,” she said in the letter dated July 1, 2022.
When contacted for comment on the status of the commitment, Faculty of Engineering Dean Prof Japheth Onyango directed that we talk to the VC’s office. “That one is dealt with by the Vice Chancellor’s office. Call the VC’s office,” he said.
Efforts to get the updates from Prof Kibwage were however futile as he was unresponsive to calls and texts.
In its report, the National Assembly committee on Education noted that Egerton University had not obtained the requisite approval from the Commission for University Education (CUE) before introducing the BSc Water and Environmental Engineering (WEEN) programme in 2014.
The university also failed to consult with the EBK on the regulator’s standards.
To be accredited as a professional engineer, a person ought to have acquired academic education presented by an accredited university programme in engineering and training at the appropriate level and experience.
The committee found out that the Egerton University WEEN graduates are unaccredited and unrecognized by the CUE and EBK, making them miss out on employment opportunities.
The same predicament befell their colleagues that undertook BSc Instrumentation and Control Engineering, BSc Civil and Environmental Engineering as well as BSc Industrial and Energy Engineering at the university.
In its submissions, the EBK led by registrar Margaret Ongai noted BSc Agricultural Engineering Programme is the only one cleared to be offered at Egerton University.
“A sound and wholesome engineering education forms the basis of a competent professional engineer, hence the requirement for the accreditation of engineering programmers offered at the universities,” she said.
The process of accrediting an institution involves an in-depth review of the programme including its design, curriculum content, faculty staff establishment, training facilities, infrastructure training duration and quality assurance.
The EBK expressed concern over the growing list of persons that had studied unaccredited courses and whose applications it cannot approve.
Approval of engineers to practice is a matter of great public interest owing to their responsibility in ensuring sound infrastructure –roads, and buildings.