The scholarships offered by the Chinese government to Kenyan students have been a great help to the country that has been struggling to enrol all qualified school leavers in public universities for many years, a senior government official has said.
Professor Colletta Suda, the Principal Secretary in the state department of higher education, says one of the greatest challenges in the country’s education sector is the opportunity to increase access to higher education.
“The number of universities both private and public has increased over the last few years but we still don’t have the capacity to absorb all the young people who qualify for higher education,” she says.
While Kenya has 43 public universities, the surging number of students seeking higher education has exceeded the capacity of existing facilities, locking out thousands of potential undergraduates.
In 2016 for instance, out of the 525, 802 students who sat for last year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations, only 74,046 got placements into the public universities out of the 165, 766 students who attained the entry mark of C+, which qualifies them for degree programmes.
Those who were refused admissions to public universities are forced to seek enrolment in the 33 private universities and colleges, hence missing out on state sponsorship.
The admission crisis has been created by the growing number of school-leavers owing to subsidised primary and secondary schooling. This is in addition to the increasing demand for higher education as the working population seeks to improve their opportunities in the labour market.
Suda says the Chinese government has been relieving the Kenyan government of this burden through the scholarships and hopes the number will increase in future.
The Principal Secretary gave the remarks during the pre-departure gathering for this year’s Kenyan awardees of Chinese government scholarships held at the country’s embassy.
Unlike last year which saw 67 students get full scholarships, this year saw the number increase to 120.
Suda challenged the students to bring back knowledge after they complete their courses to help improve the development of the country.
“The skills you are going to acquire in the universities are the kind of the capacity we need to develop our country in a sustainable way,” she said.
Liu Xianfa, the Chinese Ambassador to Kenya, says he is proud of the fact that China has become one of the most favoured destinations for Kenyans pursuing higher education and professional skills abroad.
“I believe it is the acknowledgment and appreciation you have for the Chinese culture, history, social and economic development that you have been harbouring the desire to go there to advance your studies,” he told the students.
He challenges the students to be messengers and ambassadors to introduce Kenya to more Chinese people as they devote themselves to facilitating the cooperation and promote the friendship between the two countries.
“Make satisfactory achievements and come back home to increase the development of your country upon completion of your study,” says the ambassador.
The Chinese government has been offering scholarships to Kenyans annually since 1982, doubling the quota in 2011. Currently, there are over 300 Kenyan students studying in China under various categories of the government’s scholarships.
“This year, we are providing over 200 government scholarships and more than 500 training opportunities for young Kenyan students, professionals and government officials,” he says.
Fatma Abdullah, one of the scholarship awardees and who is going to pursue a PhD in International Relations, says she is grateful to the government of China for giving her an opportunity to access higher education.
“As we go to pursue our studies in China, we should create an impeccable impact and a positive image of our country. We should take advantage of the opportunities in China for the betterment of the development of our country,” she says.
The beneficiaries of the scholarship, who were drawn from leading public universities where they were pursuing undergraduate and postgraduate courses, will be admitted in several universities in China from next month.