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Prof. Douglas Odhiambo, Moi University’s first VC, passes on

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Retired President Daniel Moi (Left) meets Prof. Douglas Odhiambo during Moi University at 30 years ceremony  

Moi University’s first Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Douglas Odhiambo, has given up the ghost. He was a man of many firsts in Kenyan history. He succumbed to stroke on Monday June 18, 2018 at Avenue Hospital, in the Lakeside city of Kisumu, a week after he was admitted to the facility.

Prof. Odhiambo was a member of the Mackay Commission that was appointed by retired President H.E. Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi on January 21, 1981, to prepare detailed plans and recommendations for the establishment of a second University in Kenya. The Commission was headed by the Canadian Scholar, Dr. Colin B. Mackay.

4Upon the recommendation of the Mackay Report for the establishment of a second University in the country, Moi University was birthed in 1984, and Prof. Odhiambo would become its first Vice-Chancellor. The Commission, whose Deputy Chairman was Prof. Odhiambo, also proposed the establishment of various Faculties, Schools and Institutes at the Second University.

Prof. Odhiambo oversaw the starting of Moi University with a paltry 83 students that had been transferred from the Department of Forestry at the University of Nairobi until 1988. The Mackay Commission also recommended restructuring of Kenya’s entire education system to the current 8-4-4 model from the defunct 7-4-2-3 system.

Prof. Odhiambo was indeed a big name in the field of academics in Kenya. Having been part of the team that structured the 8-4-4 education model aimed to equip school leavers at the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education and the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education with adequate skills for self and gainful employment in the formal and informal sectors, when concerns arose once again that the system has failed to live up to its billing, Prof. Odhiambo was appointed to head a team to look into the stakeholders’ concerns. Adoption of 8-4-4 was touted as a game-changer, aimed at offering learners with pre-vocational skills and technical education. The intention was to produce self-reliant learners ready for the global market.

After 26 years, Prof. Odhiambo found himself at the dawn of another historical moment. A 2012 report by a task force he led proposed a 2-6-3-3-3 system to replace 8-4-4, hence the need for curriculum reforms to enable the education system address the changing needs of society. Although later the 2-6-6-3 model was adapted by the Government to replace the 8-4-4 system, it borrowed a lot from Prof. Odhiambo’s model of 2-6-3-3-3.

At the time of his death, Prof. Odhiambo was the first Chancellor of Technical University of Mombasa, having been appointed in 2013 by former President, Mwai Kibaki. He died aged 89.

The father of six went to Maseno School and Alliance High School before proceeding to Makerere University, Uganda, where he studied Education between 1948 and 1950 before he went to Bristol University in London where he did his Doctor of Philosophy in Chemistry. He taught Science at Kisii High School for six years during which time he taught former Agriculture and Finance Minister, Simeon Nyachae.

Prof. Odhiambo worked at Royal Technical College, now University of Nairobi, as the Dean Faculty of Physical Sciences in 1971 and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the mother of all universities in Kenya from 1974. He was an advocate of education for both girls and boys if they have to make an impact in future.

Despite making great strides in the academic world, the softspoken Chemistry Professor also ventured into farming. After his term ended at Moi University in 1988, he retired to his farm in Mariwa, Migori County, where he concentrated on sugarcane and tea farming. In earlier media interviews, Prof. Odhiambo said farming was a passion he carried since childhood because his parents who were staunch Anglicans depended on farming to make ends meet.

According to his daughter, Elizabeth Ochieng, the requiem mass for the late Professor will be conducted on Thursday June 28, 2018 at 11:00am at Stephen’s Church in Kisumu and he will be laid to rest on Friday June 29, 2018 in Migori County.

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