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A women-only university, which will offer science and technology courses, has been launched in Kenya, with the explicit aim of popularising science among African women.

The privately owned Kiriri Women’s University of Science and Technology (KWUST), has already received a letter of interim authority from the Commission for Higher Education, the body charged with registration of new universities in the country.

The letter of interim authority marks the beginning of an accreditation process, which will culminate in the award of a charter to signify the institution’s attainment of full university status.

The first batch of 90 students is to be enrolled by September to pursue degree courses in Mathematics and Computer Science.

Paul Ndarua, the university’s sponsor, says the university aims to expand opportunities for higher education in science and technology to women in Kenya and the world as a whole.

“Our mission is develop, promote, preserve and transmit scientific and technological knowledge in collaboration with other institutions of higher learning in the world,” he says.

According to Ndarua, as the university develops, other programmes, at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels would be offered in chemistry, biological sciences, physics and environmental sciences.

To enhance capacity building, a research fund will be established for members of the teaching staff. “We will also give them a good package as a way of motivating them and leave the doors open for those wishing to pursue further studies,” says Ndarua.

He disclosed that the institution would be headed by a woman vice-chancellor “with a sound educational background and who will be a role model for the students joining the university.”

KWUST is the fifth private university to be established in Kenya and comes at a time when performance of girls in science-related courses at both secondary and college levels is at its lowest ebb.

According to statistics at the Commission for Higher Education only 40 per cent of the 7,000 students enrolled in private universities are women, and women are underrepresented in science and maths related programmes. In the six public universities the population of female students stands at 28 per cent.

Photo credit: WHO/TDR/Stone