True to its name, Daystar University has kept its stars shining in every corner of the world
By Jacob Otieno
Dr Timothy Wachira, the Vice Chancellor of Daystar University, is a busy man. When he is not preoccupied with his managerial duties in the corner office, then he is most likely locked in a boardroom meeting. He is a member of several boards among them the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb). But no matter how tight his schedule can get, the VC still spares time to visit the chapel for a word with the heavenly Father.
For Dr Wachira, God is the boss from whom all should seek guidance and support. And indeed, strong faith in God, coupled with good leadership and promotion of Christian values, has made Daystar University one of the most outstanding centres of academic excellence in this end of the sub-Saharan Africa.
The university has over the years emerged as the top producer of leaders and superstars in various fields, and there is overwhelming proof of that. It is no secret that Daystar University is one of the most recognized universities East Africa and also ranked among the top in the continent. Opinions may differ on why many of Daystar University’s graduates are doing relatively well in the job market compared to their counterparts from other universities, but all would agree that no sober-minded employer settles for mediocre, regardless of which institution he or she graduated from.
Obsessed with quality
“Churning out quality graduates that meet the needs of the job market is a serious business at Daystar University,” says Dr Wachira who joined the institution in October 2010, roughly six years ago, from St Paul’s University where he had also spent some six years as the VC.
To demonstrate just how serious they are about quality, they have set up a department that is dedicated to quality assurance and even offers a training programme on quality assurance.
“We have a very vibrant quality assurance office that is recognised locally, regionally and beyond,” says the VC who doubles as a senior medical research scientist. He holds a doctoral degree in Public Health from the University of Nairobi (UoN).
Daystar, he adds, is one of the leading universities with a fully established quality assurance office called the Center for Quality Assurance and Excellence in Teaching and Learning.
The quality assurance office conducts activities such as evaluation of students to inform improvement of teaching and learning in the university; continuous evaluation of academic programmes to conform with industry requirements; development and implementation of core skills training programmes for the teaching staff; and ensuring that the university adheres to the standards set by professional bodies such as the Commission for University Education (CUE) and Nursing Council of Kenya (NCK), among other things.
“As a matter of commitment, we review our programmes every five years,” says Dr Wachira.
The review involves assessing the relevance of the programme in the market. They do this by engaging key stakeholders, including students, employers, and most importantly the alumni who are already employed and willing to share their experiences and thoughts on how the courses can be improved.
“We are just about to conclude a major review of our communications programmes that will ensure that we stay relevant, especially in the fast changing media industry landscape,” says Dr Wachira.
As of today, Daystar University has over 5500 students spread across five faculties — School of Arts and Humanities headed by Prof Bernard Boyo; Business and Economics led by Mr Evans Amata; Communication, Languages and Performing Arts headed by Prof Levi Obonyo; Human and Social Sciences headed by Dr Kennedy Ongaro; and School of Science, Engineering and Health led by Dr Martha Kiarie.
The institution boasts of 26 fully accredited academic programmes, two of which are at PhD level, that is, PhD in Communications and PhD in Clinical Psychology, and several Master’s programmes. It is best recognised for its communication and media studies and has over the years produced some of the leading media and communication practitioners across East Africa. Under their Media programme they offer Public Relations (PR), Electronic and Print Media.
The VC says plans are at advanced stage to introduce new courses such as Animations and Online Journalism to their Media programme.
Unleashing Daystar Mobile
Daystar University is also in the process of rolling out its first ever e-learning programme, which they have dubbed Daystar Mobile.
The VC says it is an innovative way of learning that will only require a simple mobile phone. Students will not need complex smartphones or laptops to use this platform, and neither will they require an internet.
“We are going to provide data bundles. The lessons that would be needed would be downloaded in one’s phone, so they would not need to be continuously connected to the internet,” says Dr Wachira.
The main advantage with this system, he adds, is that it will increase interactivity between the students and their instructors and mentors. The level of learners’ monitoring will also be higher than in class.
“The programme has already started. We are working closely with the CUE to ensure that it’s properly examined and registered,” says Dr Wachira.
The mobile learning programme is set to commence with Bachelor of Education. The VC, however, says they will be adding new academic programmes every year starting January next year.
There will be two types of instructors in the programme, the coaching mentors, who will be continuously checking on and talking to the students, and the lecturers, who will be answering their questions.
Unlike other e-learning programmes that are already being offered in different universities across the region, Dr Wachira says their learning platform will have a wider reach and will be way more affordable and easily accessible as students will be able to interact with instructors from any part of the world and at any time.
Fresh focus on research
Daystar Mobile aside, the university has much bigger plans ahead. In its five year strategic blueprint, research and innovation are top priorities. And it will not be business as usual.
“We are not going to do research for the sake of it. In most cases we see people do research just to get published. We are not going to follow that route,” says an enthusiastic Dr Wachira, adding that they have identified thematic areas where they will be committing money.
The research, he says, will be impact oriented and innovation driven, so that their output is not just publications at the end of the day.
“We would like to look back, several years later, and say that we brought this innovation and this is how it has impacted people’s lives, as opposed to saying that we conducted this research and managed to publish this book,” says Dr Wachira.