Wednesday, September 23, 2020


Graduands follow proceedings at the 1970 graduation ceremony at the Great Court

It is graduation week at UoN. As we reflect on the 50 years of academic excellence, the 1970 graduation comes to mind.

The year 2020 has seen the world fight a pandemic that has changed life as we know it. COVID-19 has drastically upset the usual way of doing business and for an institution like the University of Nairobi, the novel virus has affected the functions of teaching, learning and research. It is in 2020, we will hold our first virtual graduation ceremony after 50 years of existence.

On Thursday, December 10, 1970, the University of Nairobi held its first graduation. Indeed, 2020 is a special year because that 1970 graduation ceremony was held at the Great Court and for the first time since 1990 or thereabout, the September 25, 2020 ceremony will be held at the Great Court, albeit virtually.

According to the 1970 graduation booklet, the ceremony started at 3.00 pm with Kenya’s first president, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta presiding over as the Chancellor. It was at this ceremony that Mzee Kenyatta was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa). Present at the ceremony was the Chairman of Council, Mr. B.M Gecaga, the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Josephat Karanja and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Bethwell Ogot.

Graduates were conferred degrees and awarded diplomas of the University of Manchester, University of East Africa and University of Nairobi.

At the ceremony, from the 494 graduates, four PhDs degrees and seven Masters degrees were awarded.

From the University of Manchester, the Teachers Certificate was awarded to 12 students.

The degrees conferred and diplomas awarded from the University of East Africa include Bachelor of Architecture, Bachelor of Arts in Building Economics, Bachelor of Arts in Land Economics, Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Veterinary Science, Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, Postgraduate Diploma in Education and Diploma in Fine Art.

The degrees conferred and diplomas awarded from the University of Nairobi were the Bachelor of Philosophy, Diploma in Advanced Nursing and the Postgraduate Diploma in Meteorology.

50 years later, the University of Nairobi continues to live true its mission of providing quality university education and training and to embody the aspirations of the Kenyan people and the global community through creation, preservation, integration, transmission and utilization of knowledge. This statement reflects on the speech delivered by the then Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Karanja when he said: “We are obliged to design a system of education that will help to promote social change and contribute to rapid economic growth, not only by training educated manpower needed for specific tasks of development, but also by creating proper attitudes of mind in our people.”

And today, for this first time in our history, we will have a graduation ceremony with no graduands at the grounds. For the first time in our history, we will not see graduates throw their academic caps in the air in celebration. But even so, we live by our mission, embodying the aspirations of the Kenyan people.

To the graduating class of 2020, reflect on the timeless words of the 1970 Vice-Chancellor: ‘no generation is uniquely endowed with perception or judgment or compassion but I believe that today's young people have a stronger will to work and to sacrifice for a better Africa than some that have gone before.’

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