We Need a Stanford Like University in Kenya/Africa

“Education isn’t about acquisition of knowledge but the use of that knowledge to transform societies. It’s the application that counts.”

I have an inherent love for learning and this is thanks to my upbringing. Something, I am concerned not everyone had a chance to experience and embrace. From a young age, I was the tiny guy and as you can tell for small people, you either read or read otherwise the system sets you up to fail in life. This has been my greatest motivator knowing that I’m not that strong physically or able bodied but this is far from the point. Having schooled at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture (JKUAT), I am proud of the great feat that our alumni have gone to showcase their prowess even in the not so appealing of circumstances but it shows the creativity, ingenuity and skills endowed in these young people. That’s something to be proud of and I am.

In line with my analogy in the title, I have been fascinated by Stanford University for the longest time possible. From the point we founded Ryculture, I became a student of YouTube university and often than not the greatest insights I got were from Stanford University resources. This is from tips on branding, insights from industry leaders and even inspiration from some of the alumni such as Reed Hastings – Founder, Netflix, Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google/Alphabet among others. It’s a sign of the great ecosystem created in the institution that allows such innovative brains to sprout, nurture ideas and let them out to transform the world. Imagine a world without Google just for a minute and tell me how it could be on the comment section. Out of this interest I went further and looked at the history of Stanford University and realized it was on the precipice of the death of Leland Stanford Jnr. the son to Leland Stanford and Jane Stanford as a way to honor their son.

As a country and a continent, I am of the idea that our education is falling short of it’s purpose of contributing to the betterment of our societies. Over time, we have witnessed a mismatch in training programs and market demands with surveys depicting a need to retrain graduates upon entry into the market. Additionally, universities being scholarly and research based/focused it’s my thinking that there should be application or rather a mechanism to add onto this knowledge one generation after another. This stands the chance of avoiding repetition while increases chances of coming up with innovative ideas that can get to the market. Unfortunately, regardless of the fact that every student have to do a project, most of these end up in corners of offices and at best in library shelves on the archive section. Some of these never get to be accessed ever again by anyone thus stop with the researcher who most often also conduct the research with the aim of fulfilling their course requirement not for the value it stands to add to the ecosystem. This is a worrying trend that needs to be reviewed.

Ps. Did you know Google was a student project at inception?

Finally, in a university like Stanford that is the example here there are market linkages such that innovative ideas and student projects stand a chance to be adopted and incubated through different market ecosystems. There is access to seed funding, mentorship and guidance and beyond this market linkages to enable these innovations gain function/use in the real world. This systemwide approach doesn’t exist in our context and when it does, there isn’t access to the financing necessary to bridge the gap from ideation to prototype and to the market. These are all drawbacks that we are facing as a continent. There are organizations coming up with models to bridge these gaps in the form of innovation hubs such as Villgro Kenya and our Social Innovation Hub which is still in the pipeline. Hopefully, we’ll be able to rewrite the narrative.

“Training and education should be informed by and responsive to the market needs/trends. This can only be through market linkages. Let’s foster them.”

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