By James Musukuya

Today, many Kenyan women have climbed to the highest academic hierarchy. In fact it’s a difficult feat listing exhaustively all of them. As we mark the International Women’s Day, we sample top cream women lectures in Kenyan universities. Prof. Leah Marangu, Vice Chancellor, Africa Nazarene University The Vice Chancellor for now one and half decades since 1996, Marangu holds the distinction as the first woman in Kenya and the East Africa, to fill this coveted position. After her studies in the US, she lectured in a series of universities abroad, before returning to Kenya in 1977. Back home in Kenya, she had a teaching stint at Kenyatta University (KU) in the Department of Home Economics. Some of Marangu’s distinguished students at KU included Olive Mugenda – today sitting at the top as KU’s VC. In Marangu’s detailed academic CV is a PhD in Home Economics and Masters in Science, all acquired from the US’s Iowa State University. Prof. Olive Mugenda, Vice Chancellor, Kenyatta University She entered office through a competitive open recruitment process, beating three of her male competitors, to clinch the coveted position of VC in March 2006. Prior to rising to the top echelons of the University’s leadership, Mugenda had served in various capacities at KU. She was a lecture and later Head of the Family and Consumer Sciences Department. She went a notch higher to become the Dean in the Institute of Applied Human Sciences. She also occupied the office of Director of International Students Summer Programme and for four years before rising to the helm as the VC, she was the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Finance and Planning Mugenda’s administrative leadership exemplifies the fact that women are equally capable leaders. During her regime, KU has scooped various high profile achievements, including the coveted ISO quality certification for its excellence in accountability and operations. Locally, the University earned recognition as the best performing state corporation, in the 2006 to 2007 performance contract evaluation. Mugenda acquired her PhD in 1988, from Iowa State University in the USA. Prof. Mabel Imbuga, Vice Chancellor, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) Imbuga succeeded Prof. Nick Wanjohi as the VC, JKUAT three years ago in August 2008. The professor of chemistry, Imbuga has had a long teaching stint at JKUAT and the star of her career in this highly respected Institute in matters science and technologies has been rising steadily. For instance, she headed the Department of Biochemistry between 1998 and 1999. For five straight years between 1999 and 2003, she was the Dean of the Faculty of Science, before taking the appointment as the Director in charge of the University’s academic programmes. Come 2005 and she filled the position of Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Academic Affairs, a position she held until becoming the VC. Imbuga has PhD in Biochemistry, MSC in Biochemiststy and Bachelor of Science Degree, all from the University of Nairobi, Kenya. She is also in possession of an Executive MBA in Strategic Management.

Prof. Monica Mweseli, Vice Chancellor, Kiriri Women University of Science and Technology (KWUST)

A literature don, Mweseli heads the only university in Kenya that caters for women and focuses on developing the capacity of female students in the fields of science and technology.

After her studies in the US, Mweseli taught briefly at the Florida based Daytona Beach Community College. Upon returning to Kenya in 1988, she enrolled as a lecturer in the Department of Literature at her alma mater, the University of Nairobi (UoN). At the UoN, Mweseli played various significant roles that included chairing the post graduate students committee, a position that gave her the onus to review the Masters and PhD’s thesis proposals.

Besides steering leadership At KWUST, Mweseli is also a renowned adjudicator of drama festivities. She graduated from UoN in 1979 and proceeded to Atlanta University in Georgia, US, where she obtained an MA in 1981 and PhD in 1987.

Other Celebrated Women Dons

Other women professors that have curved an indelible mark as lecturers include Lucy Irungu and Agnes Mwang’ombe, the Principals at UoN’s College of Biological Sciences, based at Chiromo Campus and the College of Agriculture, based at Upper Kabete Campus, respectively.

Specialist in entomology (study of insects), Prof. Lucy joined the Department of Zoology, UoN in 1988 as a lecturer and later became the Department’s Chairman (1999 to 2004), before she was appointed the College Principal. She graduated from the UoN with BSC in Entomology, scooping first class honours. She proceeded to Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, where she obtained her MSC and PhD

On her part, Agnes was appointed the Principal in September 2005. Previously, she had been the UoN’s Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture. She earned her PhD in Plant Pathology from the UoN in 1987.

Florida Karani does not earn accolades just because she is the first woman in Kenya to become Chancellor, but also the Masono University’s Chancellor is among Kenya’s pioneer women lecturers. She became a lecturer at the UoN in the 60’s, and has held various positions of affluence at the University, including that of the Principal, College of Education and External Studies (1988 to 1994) and DVC in charge of Academic Affairs (1994 to 2004).

The Vice Chair of Kenya’s Commission for Higher Education, Rosalind Mutua is also feature among the Who is Who of Kenyan women professors. In 2002, she became the founding VC of Kiriri Women University. She had served at JKUAT as DVC in charge of Agriculture and Technology.

The role played by former nominated MP Ruth Khasaya Oniang’o in Kenya’s higher leaning cannot be gainsaid. She has lectured in many universities, including UoN, KU and JKUAT. She has also served as an external examiner in many local and foreign universities.

In this long endless list are also Mary Walingo (DVC Finance and Administration) and Esther Mombo (DVC Academics), at Maseno and St. Paul’s Theological universities, respectively.