The Journey of UoN Alumni Association
On the morning of Saturday, 5th February 2005, the University of Nairobi Alumni Association (UONAA) was launched amidst pomp and celebration at the Chancellor’s Court. The colourful ceremony graced by the late Prof. George Saitoti, then Minister for Education, Science & Technology and was attended by Kenya’s top education, public and private sector personalities. The alumni had every reason to celebrate the birth of the overdue baby, amidst the pomp and style, hearty handshakes and exuberant hugs that reverberated across the Chancellor’s Court.
The journey to launch UONAA kicked off in September 2004, at a University Council meeting when Dr Betty Gikonyo was challenged to lead the formation of the association. Dr. Gikonyo took up the challenge with her first task being the drawing up of the Association’s objectives and a draft constitution. There were consultations between the legal officer and the Registrar of Societies that ensured the registration process was expedited. Right from the beginning, it was clear that the baby needed to be weaned for some time. The University administration led by the then Vice-Chancellor, Prof. George Magoha agreed to support the baby until she had been launched. Prof. Magoha also mandated officers in the University to sit with Dr. Gikonyo to plan the launch. The committee was christened “The Alumni Launch Committee”.
The committee was mandated to seek individuals who would volunteer to serve as interim officials of the association. Dr. Gikonyo was requested to serve as the interim Chairperson. Others who accepted the challenge included Prof. Robert Obudho, Bernard Waweru, Mildred Owuor, Dr. Frank Njenga, Njeri Muhoro and John Kenduiwo. Others were Charles Kimathi, Josphat Kirimania, Bernard Njuguna, Charles Sikulu and Charles Okello.
The University continued to support the activities of the association by allocating it office space and deploying personnel. Mr. Bernard Njuguna, then an assistant registrar at the University was seconded to the Association as its first administrator. Speaking during the launch, Prof. Saitoti congratulated the alumni for taking a bold step in launching the Association. He appealed to the alumni to give the association total support to enable it achieve its objectives. He said the government views alumni associations as positive synergy and energy that can be tapped for the benefit of institutions and societies at large. These associations, he noted, have been responsible for many changes in institutions. Prof. Saitoti reminded Kenyans that the best and renowned Universities worldwide have strong and vibrant alumni associations and there was no reason why Kenya should be an exception. The then University of Nairobi Chancellor, Dr. Joe Wanjui while pledging to back the Association, said the alumni involvement in the corporate governance and development of the institution was critical in today’s dynamic world.
In 2016, UONAA held its first Annual General Meeting that saw Dr. Betty Gikonyo handover the mantle of leadership to Mr. Isaac Awuondo as the Chairman of UONAA for a period of 3 years. In 2019, Mr. Awondo was re-elected to serve for a further term of three years. His team consists of Dr. Anne Aseey – Vice – Chairman, Prof. Patrick L.O Lumumba -Secretary, Mrs. Mildred Owuor – Treasurer, Mr.Johnson Kinyua – Organizing Secretary, Dr.Fronica Monari – Deputy Secretary, Dr. Hastings Ozwara – Deputy Treasurer, Mr. Andrew Gakiria – Deputy Organizing Secretary, Mr. John Orindi – Newsletter Editor, Mr. Brian Ouma(Co-opted Member)-Representing the University Advancement and Mr.Keneth (Ex-Official)-Executive Director.
Since its launch in 2005, members have continued to contribute in many ways towards ensuring their mother institution remains the undisputed fountain of knowledge. Right from February 5, 2005 when the alumni present at the launch ceremony raised over KSh. 750,000 (from 75 members who registered on the spot), millions of shillings have been raised by the association which have been used in undertaking several development and academic projects. The following are a snippet of the initiatives and projects UONAA has supported over the last 15 years.
UoN Bursary Fund/Scholarship Fund
In the year 2009, for the first time since its establishment, UONAA made a significant donation of Kshs. 5 Million to the University of Nairobi Bursary Fund. Going forward, UONAA committed to support the University Bursary Fund with annual donations of Kshs. 2 Million. To date, UONAA has donated a total of Kshs. 23 Million to the Fund that has benefited over 3,000 students between 2009-2018. In the 2019/2020 academic year, UON Alumni Association led by the Chairman Mr. Isaac Awuondo made a commitment to kick start an Alumni Scholarship Fund that seeks to support 1,000 bright and needy students pursuing their studies at the University of Nairobi over the next 5 years. In addition to the scholarship, the Association will endeavour to attach the beneficiaries to alumni in the Industry for mentorship and practical exposure through Internship and work study programs.
Speaking during the award ceremony that saw 52 (Fifty Two) 1st year students get a 1 year full scholarship, the Chairman noted that although the Scholarship targeted 1st year students, the Association received over 500 applications from UON continuing students and 259 from 1st Year Students. This is a clear indicator that more needs to be done to support students currently pursuing their studies at the University. He also noted a low number of women applicants to the Scholarship Fund. Only 23% of the applicants were women compared to 77% men.
UONAA has also continued to support the Nairobi Innovation Week (NIW). NIW is an annual flagship initiative of the University of Nairobi aimed at strengthening Kenya’s innovation ecosystem. The inaugural event took place in August, 2015. The event involves a number of partners and sponsors such as University of Nairobi Alumni Association (UONAA); and brings together various Stakeholders to celebrate, re-focus and energize the innovation efforts in Kenya and Africa. To date, UONAA has supported this initiative to a tune of KShs. 2.5 Million.
As part of its support to UON students, since 2005, UONAA has on an annual basis rewarded the top performing students in each of the six colleges. To date, UONAA has awarded over 100 students with over KShs. 1.5Million set aside to reward and award the top achievers. In addition to awarding top achievers, UONAA has continued to play a major role in all UON graduation ceremonies since 2006. Cumulatively, UONAA has supported various graduation ceremonies to a tune of KShs. 4 Million over the last 10 years. As the alumni community, receiving graduates from the University has been a major step in the growth and sustainability of the Alumni Association. In addition, UONAA has continued to support University of Nairobi Open Days, Sports Days, Research Week among other University wide activities.
University of Nairobi Alumni Association (UONAA) has over the last 15 years launched chapters that bring together former graduates of the University of Nairobi to re-unite, engage, network and share ideas on how to support their Alma Mater. To date, 17 faculty based and region based alumni chapters have been launched. The launched chapters are; Journalism, Law, MBA, Dental Sciences, Chiromo, Pharmacy, Education, Veterinary Sciences, Institute for Diplomacy & International Studies, Human Medicine, Agriculture, Engineering, Architecture, Design & Development, Range Management, Computing & Informatics, Mombasa and Nursing Sciences. These chapters have continued to drive the Alumni Association agenda both locally and internationally. These chapters have also continued to support their various schools and faculties through financial support, mentorship for students, public lecture series and attachment and industry linkages.
Ranking of UoN Chancellor
In 2013, University of Nairobi Alumni Association became the first alumni group to actively participate in the ranking of the University Chancellor in line with the provisions of the Universities Act 2012. Alumni gathered at the University of Nairobi Taifa hall to rank nominated candidates for the position of Chancellor. After evaluating the different candidates, Dr. Vijoo Rattansi emerged the best and was appointed the Chancellor of UoN and was installed during the 50th Graduation ceremony in December 2013. This act of ranking the Chancellor underpinned the critical role alumni play in the governance of their Alma mater. It is therefore important that alumni continue supporting UoN in all endeavors to ensure that it remains a leading light in the Education sector in Kenya and beyond.
UONAA Endowment Fund
One of the goals of the University of Nairobi Alumni Association (UONAA) is to raise funds and set up a KSh1 billion Endowment Fund. An endowment is a permanent gift, an investment that continuously gives back to the University. It provides one of the most secure sources of future revenue for the University.
Endowment Fund will be used to establish:
Endowment Chairs: This is an instrument that is used to hire and retain the best, the brightest and most talented scholars in a faculty. An endowment chair can be established with a minimum of KSh10 million per chair.
Scholarships: These are awards to make university education accessible to more than 1,000 talented students each year. The scholarship endowment can be established with a minimum of KSh100 million per year.
Students Fellowships: These provide students interns with financial support as they extend their education outside the classroom. The fellowships can be established with a minimum of KSh100 million per year.
Faculty Research and Innovation: These support faculty scholarships, research and innovation across various disciplines. The minimum amount required to establish the faculty scholarship fund is KSh100 million per year.
Academic Programme and Support Funds: These support various campus needs including students’ activities, building operations and sports. The minimum amount required is KSh100 million per year.
UONAA will endeavor to bring on board alumni from across the globe in a structured resource mobilization strategy to raise funds to support this noble venture and create a sustainability plan for the future.