Tracing the genesis of university founder’s curiosity about Rwanda
When MKU founder Prof. Simon N. Gicharu first visited Rwanda, he hoped to see the world famous gorillas at Volcanoes National Park, and reunite with his former Biology teacher in high school Mr. Peter Claver Nyombayire. He was successful in the gorilla trekking but his hopes of meeting Nyombayire were dashed when he learnt that he had passed on some few years before.
‘Why I honoured my former teacher from Rwanda’
"When I was a Secondary school student at Gathiruini in Kiambu County, Kenya, one of my teachers was a well-dressed man f rom Rwanda called Peter Claver Nyombayire (Inset). He taught us Biol- ogy, a subject that involved combina- tion of theory and practical lessons. At Gathiruini Secondary, we had no scien- tif ic equipment. Mwalimu Nyombayire often fabricated equipment in order to teach us, and when it was not possible, he used humour by asking us to close our eyes and imagine what the practical was about. He never absconded teaching due to lack of equipment. During one lesson on how to make Sodium Chloride [salt], he told us to imagine the ingre- dients boiling inside a test-tube. It was a form of ‘virtual practicals’. Many years later after I invested in education, I told myself that I would do anything possible to provide my students with all the equipment so that I would also not tell them to close their eyes and imagine what was being taught. Our library at MKU is named in honour of Mwalimu Nyombayire."
-Prof. Simon N. Gicharu
Flagging off the dream: History of the university’s entry into Rwanda
Besides the interest in Rwanda sowed into the heart of MKU founder Prof. Simon Gicharu by a good teacher, the university’s entry into the country was inspired by inquiries from Rwanda citizens.
From the mid-to-late 2000s, the mother institution in Kenya underwent a transition from an Institute of Technology to a fully-fledged university.
Having studied the trends in international education in the East African region, Mr. Musisi convinced the management at Thika Institute of Technology (as the Mount Kenya University forerunner college was known) to advertise in the widely circulating Standard newspaper. They did. “We received 25 inquiries for our academic programmes from interested students in Rwanda,” recalls Prof. Gicharu. “Almost all of them were written in Kinyarwanda or French.”
The courses were Diploma in Pharmacy, Information Technology, Hospitality and Tourism, and Degree programmes in Commerce, Medical Laboratory Sciences, and Science in Analytical Chemistry. Through a translator, TIT learnt that the Rwandan students yearned for an international education. The country was on an upward trajectory after a difficult past. Through a local contact, TIT management met Dr. Zulfat Mukarubega, founder and legal representative of Rwanda Tourism University College (RTUC).
It was good news for Rwandan students who would enrol through RTUC since they could acquire international degrees from Mount Kenya University.