The emergence of Maseno University as one of the top universities in Kenya is a crowning accomplishment of the education enterprise at Maseno for the last 100 years. Since at least 1906, when Maseno School was created by European missionaries to provide education to the local people, many academic institutions have ermerged in Maseno and the immediate vicinity.
Many of the educational institutions in the area were founded to provide elementary education to children. Others were created for training graduates of high schools. For example, the Maseno Veterinary School was built to train livestock extension officers. Siriba Teachers College was built to train elementary school teachers. The Government Training Institute was created to provide management skills to government workers. The establishment of Maseno University therefore follows the area's long trend of engagement with the educational enterprise.
Maseno University was founded in 1991 and it is located in Maseno town along the Kisumu-Busia road, about 25 km from Kisumu city and 400 km from Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. Since its founding, Maseno University has had important impacts on the social, economic and political development of Kenya. Indeed, the university has produced and continues to produce prominent and well-educated people in the country.
The role of Maseno University in the development of Kenya is encapsulated in popular sayings among students, alumni, and members of the university community at large, who proudly talk about how theirs is the "only university in the world that sits on the equator."
Maseno University’s history began with the merger of Maseno Government Training Institute with the Siriba Teachers Training College in 1990 to form Maseno University as a constituent college of Moi University (based in Eldoret). The Act of Parliament in 1991 made Maseno University an accredited institution of higher learning in Kenya and later, in 2001, it became a full-fledged university. Maseno University was one of the first universities to establish the role of Emeritus professor when Professor B.A. Ogot was appointed as the first Emeritus professor at Maseno University.
Initially, the institution was headed by a principal answerable to the Vice-Chancellor at Moi University. After its elevation to a university, it was headed by a Chancellor. President Daniel Arap Moi was the first chancellor of the university from 2001 to 2003.
In June 2003, the former President of the Republic of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki, appointed Mr. William Wamalawa as Chancellor. In 2008, Wamalawa was replaced as Chancellor by Professor Frida Karani from 2008 to 2014. The current Chancellor is Michael Joseph. The university is currently headed by an acting vice-chancellor. This is Professor Julius Omondi Nyabundi. The deputy vice-chancellor for academics and student affairs is Professor Mary Kipsat; the deputy vice-chancellor for administration, finance and development is Professor Catherine Muhoma; and the deputy vice-chancellor for partnerships, research and innovations is Professor Joseph Chacha.
Maseno University began operations with two campuses: the College campus, and the Siriba campus. Today, it has five campuses, a testament to its growth and evolution. There is the College Campus, Siriba Campus, Kisumu City Campus, Homa Bay Campus and the eCampus (the first of its kind in Kenya, a virtual ground that runs adaptable online projects both for on-grounds understudies and in addition off-grounds understudies selected for different Maseno University programs through eLearning). Homa Bay campus is situated at the SONYACO Plaza in Homa Bay town. Maseno University offers a wide range of programs and some of these are the school of medicine, business and economics, development and strategic studies, public health and community development, education, agriculture and food security, biological and physical science, arts and social sciences.
According to Maseno University Office of Admission and registrar, the institution currently has over 15,000 students who are enrolled in the university pursuing undergraduate and graduate programs. The increase in the number of students in the university shows how good the school is in providing an opportunity for people to have a good education.
There are different facilities and buildings within the university such as Kilimanjaro and Equator hostels, libraries, Millennium lecture halls, tutoring centers, and cafeterias that are available for students so that they can get all the information they need to succeed in their education and make the environment a conducive one for learning. There is also the Maseno University Hospital. This hospital, which was built by the missionaries, has a rich historical background.
Maseno University over the years has had a significant impact on Maseno and other neighboring regions. According to Ogot Bethwell in his essay, “University development in Kenya-What Options?," “from the early 1950’s to late 1970’s, university education in Kenya played a dynamic role in nation building, especially by producing elites in the various walks of life” (p. 25). Education brings a whole new light to a community. The more people are educated in different fields, the more the community and the country as well benefit from it and that leads to creating job opportunities, increasing the standard of living for the people and the economy as well.
Maseno University has been a shining light for Maseno town by making the town popular and creating numerous jobs for the local people. Due to the high increase in the number of students attending the university, there has been population pressure in the area, leading to huge demands for more places for accommodation, more shops or shopping centers, more social amenities and even more means of transportation. Economically, the students have become major economic contributors to the region. Businesses are thriving and the economy is growing every day.
Maseno center is steadily growing, marketers are making money, bodaboda [motorcycle] riders are shuttling the students on their daily commute, private developers are buying up the lands and building modern and beautiful residential apartments, hotels and shop owners are also benefitting from the day to day activities that goes on in the University. Maseno University’s economic impact is not confined to Maseno. For example, Maseno also manages enterprises such as the Kisumu hotel, in Kisumu, which is available for tourists or visitors, and also a university farm that produces agricultural products that are used within the university, and also supplied to markets around for sale.
Socially, Maseno University has created a great atmosphere for bringing people from different ethnic groups to achieve a common goal. Students learn from one another, which is a good thing, because it opens up people’s minds to appreciate and accept that people have different ways of life and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It has also created a social environment around the university. Traders interact with one another and with customers during business hours, people get together in pubs to watch sporting events and talk about issues going on in the country.
However, there have also been problems and challenges, including occasional tensions between students, staffs and the neighboring communities. There have been clashes between the university community and the local people because of various reasons such as theft and sometimes because of political differences. But this is not unique to Maseno. Hopefully, as time goes on, members of the university and their neighbors will be able to settle their differences and get along with each other more.
In conclusion, Maseno University is one of the top public universities in Kenya, offering quality education and helping grow the economy in the region and society at large. Ogot, in one of his essays “The role of a University in the development of national unity and consciousness,” states that universities, whether in Africa or elsewhere have three major functions which is to transmit knowledge and values from generation to generation through effective teaching, they discover new knowledge through research and they serve their societies by participating in various forms of extension programs (Ogot, p. 593).
Maseno University has tried and will continue to channel and drive these goals and functions to make sure that education in Kenya is accessible and available for all, create a better standard of living and more job opportunities, bring communities and people of all ethnic groups together as one thereby making the nation a better place to live.