Entrepreneurship should be taught early says Zetech Don
Prof. Peter Berachesebe Kibas, is a professor of entrepreneurship and management; Currently, Dean of the School of Business and Economics at Zetech University.
Piece initially published in The Standard Newspaper (8th August 2019)
1. Talk about being a professor and how your journey to this status was for you. How easy or tough is it to become one?
My journey to professorship started with my first job assignment as a TSC employed high school teacher after my training at Kenyatta College (present day Kenyatta University) in 1974. I used to admire, my Canadian Business Education instructor, a Professor Porozny. He taught with a passion and unfeigned love for his students.
Armed with a burning desire to reach the epitome of the teaching profession in my lifetime and be like my professor, I never looked back after my initial training at Kenyatta College. I was determined to pursue education at each level beginning with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, Canada; then going on to do my Master’s degree and finally followed by the Doctorate degrees both from the University Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA.
These were all achieved over a span of 21 years since I was raising my family while at the same time working to earn an income to support them. After obtaining my doctoral degree, I switched jobs from a Deputy Registrar (Principal Administrative Officer) and went into teaching at Moi University, in January 1996. That was my starting point as a full time lecturer in the University teaching career. With hard work, determination and juggling a number of activities – teaching, research, consultancy, presentation of research papers in conferences, and publications, I rose through the ranks of a lecturer, senior lecturer, associate professor and finally to full time professor in 2006.
2. How powerful is the title professor in the country?
First and foremost, a professor is expected to be humble, polite and with the right demeanor. Through this he earns the respect the title deserves. A Professor, by virtue of having earned that title through many years of rigorous study, teaching in the university, conducting research and disseminating information on their findings through conferences/relevant workshops and publications of their works , are seen as the most senior leaders and respected members of the community and the country; besides political and religious leaders. They are among the knowledgeable opinion leaders who are expected to inform on the academic, social, economic, environmental and to some extent political matters. They are expected to advise other community leaders, professionals, practitioners, policy makers and the public on general matters and particularly in their fields of specialization. Their opinions are usually taken seriously; for example, once he has spoken other speakers that follow, often make reference to what the Professor has commented.
3. Why are you passionate about teaching business and entrepreneurship?
My vision and goal in life has always been shaped by my Christian faith; when Jesus Christ told his disciples to go out there and make them disciples and to teach what he had taught them i.e. empowering others and changing their lives for the better by giving them hope. That is exactly Amy philosophy – to empower others so that they experience a positive mind-set shift. Entrepreneurship involves the transformation of the mind to develop the attitude of, “Yes, I can and nothing is impossible to be done”. Teaching entrepreneurship is a way of empowering others to be innovative and creative in their life’s journey in the school of life. This involves couching, mentoring and counseling. Entrepreneurship empowers an individual to think strategically in how to live a fulfilled life through creativity, innovation, achievement orientation, seeking opportunities and passionately being change agents.
4. As the Dean, how will you ensure, or how has the campus ensured that it’s not just theory being taught to students but also practical skills?
We encourage our faculty to apply a combination of methodologies and learning approaches are encouraged in order to blend theory and practice. Through continuous pedagogical training we re-tool our faculty and staff in new and practical approaches of delivering learning. To achieve all rounded learning of our students, we have encouraged our faculty at Zetech to make use of multi-media, case study analysis, problem based research in the community and in small and medium businesses, use of guest speakers and visits to industry among others.Students are guided and assisted to carry out practical projects that involve engaging with industry and business. This is followed by students presenting individual field based reports such as bankable business plans and strategic plans among other practical solutions. This forms part of the teaching, examinations and monitoring and evaluation.
5. Is entrepreneurship a skill, an inborn talent or must it be sharpened in school?
Entrepreneurship is a way of life. This is attested to all the time as we have a myriad of examples of successful individuals globally who apply entrepreneurial mindsets in their occupations. Hence it has both elements of inborn talents as well as environmental nurturing or learning. My recommendation is that entrepreneurship elements should be taught progressively from Nursery school to University so as to develop and nurture the entrepreneurial mind set throughout the growth stages of an individual. This may also ensure the development of a positive mind-set of innovativeness, creativity, risk-taking, assertiveness, hard work with a passion and goal or achievement orientation.
6. You are an expert in business research and innovation. How vital is research and innovation even in courses like business and entrepreneurship?
Business research and innovation are very vital in any nation. In order to alleviate key challenges facing the country such as the run-away unemployment rates, disease and poverty, we need to create job opportunities as well as produce sufficient goods and services to satisfy these needs. Industrialization (which includes modern farming using technology) is one sure strategy of meeting these challenges. Research and innovation are proven strategies that will lead to discovery and expansion of opportunities in the use of technology and the production of goods and services that can improve the lives of citizens. This will not only create opportunities for employment but also to the generation of wealth – hence poverty alleviation. The government together with her development partners should therefore provide sufficient finances resources to all the universities (public and private) for research and training in entrepreneurial innovation and technology.
7. What plans does Zetech have with regards to research and innovation and how will the students be supported in this?
The University has set up a research directorate headed by a director of research to spearhead our research initiatives. Under this department, we are continually conducting training of our faculty and students on various aspects of research; we also hold an annual research and innovation international conferences. This year’s conference, dubbed Sustainable Innovations Conference will be held on the 12th and 13th September 2019. To inculcate a research mindset, all our students undergo at least one course unit in Research which involves both theory and conducting of actual research in the field; this is followed by the presentation of results to a panel of examiners. We also have established an International Center for Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Technology Development (ICEITD). The Center gives students and faculty opportunity for innovation as an incubator and is expected to act as a focal point with industry and business and the university
8. How are you ensuring that there’s quality in the degrees and masters that you are offering? How competent is a Zetech student from the rest?
To ensure quality and relevance of our degrees, first of all we have engaged qualified and experienced faculty; secondly we benchmark with the best universities locally and globally. All our curricula are also reviewed regularly after every cycle of training. This exercise involves working with key stakeholders, relevant practitioners/professionals and also academicians from other institutions of higher learning. Use of external examiners who not only examine the scripts but also evaluate our curricula and give valuable suggestions for continuous improvement is also very helpful.In addition the University has entered into several partnerships for the all rounded training of our graduates. These include: the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) Kiambu Chapter, Samchi group of Companies, Huawei Technologies, among others to provide students and faculty with the needed industrial and business experience through internships and exchange programs.
9. Parting shot.
One should begin with the fear of God followed by a vision to achieve by pursuing excellence in one’s life in all endeavors they are engaged. Developing a focused entrepreneurial mind-set is necessary for success. Finally, I encourage Kenyans to join Zetech University where their minds will be challenged to ‘Invent their future’.