By Olanga Nyamamu
Egerton University has a new Vice Chancellor (V.C.). In an appointment that was made public on Thursday 29th October 2015 Prof. Rose Mwonya will become Egerton’s 5th V.C taking over from Prof. James Tuiotoek who has been at the helm since 2006.
Her appointment will take effect from 13th January next year when she will become the first woman to hold such a position in the history of the institution. Apparently Prof. Mwonya who is also the University’s Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Academic Affairs (DVC-AA) is also the first and only woman to hold such a position (that of a DVC) at the institution that was started 76 years ago.
Prof. Rose Mwonya holds a Doctorate in Philosophy (PhD) in Agriculture and Home Economics from Iowa State University in America where she also studied for her Master and Bachelor’s degrees. She is credited for being the founding Director of the Center for Women and Gender Analysis (now Institute for Women, Gender and Development Studies) at the University which was the first center of its kind in the Sub-Saharan Africa.
Apart from serving as a Chairperson of the department of Agriculture and Home Economics, Prof. Mwonya has also served as a Dean of Students at the institution’s Njoro campus.
Coincidentally, as she assumes office as the fifth V.C at Egerton University she will become the fifth woman vice chancellor in the country. Other women V.C’s in the 31 public universities in Kenya are: Prof. Olive Mugenda (Kenyatta), Prof. Mabel Imbuga (JKUAT), Prof. Mary Walingo (Maasai Mara) and Prof. Teresa Akenga (Eldoret).
Recognized as the oldest institution of higher learning in Kenya, Egerton University was started in 1939 as an Agricultural college with only 3 students. Its founder Lord Maurice Egerton is said to have had a dislike for women after a lady he had courted for marriage let him down even after he built her a castle of its kind with more than 50 rooms.
History has it that he never wanted to meet any woman, let alone make the college a no-gone zone for women. He is said to have had the tradition of sending information, two weeks in advance, to his male workers at the college to hide their wives and daughters prior to his visit. It was not until Mama Ngina Kenyatta (the wife of Kenya’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta) visited the university one day that the tradition was broken as she gave a directive that women be given equal opportunity.
With Prof. Mwonya’s appointment it would be interesting to see how he (Lord Maurice) would react, had he come back to life today to find a woman at the helm of the institution.