Dr. Faustine Ondore brief
Dr. Ondore is a Senior Lecturer and the Chairman of the Department of Aeronautical and Aviation Engineering at Technical University of Kenya (TUK).In 1995, he earned his degree in Engineering Studies from the University of Hertfordshire, in 1999; he acquired his PhD in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Brunel.
He is a Chartered Engineer, (United Kingdom Engineering Council),Chartered Member (The Institution of Mechanical Engineers),Corporate Member(Royal Aeronautical Society),Member of American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Founder Member of Aeronautical Society of Kenya and Member American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics.
One of his achievements includes founding of the Department of Aeronautical and Aviation engineering academic staff meetings to improve the department’s performance. The other is development of new courses in Aeronautical engineering degree program with piloting Studies. He has researched and published widely in the area of detecting further effects of turbulence as it affects aircraft design, systems and engines.
There is ongoing public conversation to the effect that we have inept engineering graduates, moreover, others say that we have a crisis in engineering capacity in Kenya. What is the state of engineering education in the country in your view?
There is need to first focus on the challenges that engineers face around the country. As from this we can discuss how training comes to play. Like in any other country, engineering is vital to development and there is no country that develops without good engineering capability. At the moment the coherent of engineering capability in Kenya is weak and that doesn’t mean that there are no engineers, they are there but there is no single body in Kenya that articulate the roles of engineers in the country, therefore, there is no voice or influence hence there is lack of coherence among engineers.
Engineering education in Kenya is a lifelong issue, it is not something you do in a patchy way to attain those capabilities and competencies. Therefore, you start with a student before or undergoing secondary education. They need to be encouraged to develop interest in science and mathematics, so that by the time they leave high school, they have mastered technical subjects. After high school, the engineering journey begins with a degree in University which takes around 5-7 years. With a proper program curriculum, then one can have the right to move to a period of industry training or experience. This formal training done within a minimum of five years after graduation should be recorded and adequate to acquire basic engineering competencies. The design of our curriculum must reflect a proper foundation in an engineering graduate.
The next phase in engineering education is Continuous Professional Development (CPD). This development is a requirement and necessary for one to remain in the national register. We all know that if we don’t keep on practising to the right level over time you will lose your competencies thus for this to be maintained, an engineer must adhere to the code of ethics and can act in different capacities like being a mentor to young university students. With this, an annual assessment is done on how an engineer is practising and if they meet the requirements or standards then they remain in the national register if not they are removed.
Considering the number of registered practicing engineers in Kenya (less than 2000), there surely is a problem seeing as it is that we need engineers to spur our development. Does the problem begin at training?
I think the combination of both before and after the training period contributes to insufficient engineers. The problem of training begins prevalently after graduation. We can acknowledge that there are courses that have not been registered by EBK that result in the low number of practicing engineers. Also, the design of curriculum as approved by CUE, if it is not delivered or implemented in a certain way, certain outcomes will not be achieved. The overall output when one graduates can prove that there could be several gaps of knowledge such as lack of laboratories, workshops or even shortage of qualified lecturers. EBK has clearly stated that for one to supervise a project, he or she must be professional engineer with professional experience
What is the difference between engineering training in Kenya and engineering training in other countries you have visited and practised?
I will give you an example of a place i used to work as a lecturer while still doing my PhD research in United Kingdom (UK). I was very lucky to do my PhD research at the same time be employed as the head of Aircraft design. In UK, they place a lot of emphasis on industrial training not only academic work. In UK, the practical element is given prominence, for example, at Brunel, one would undergo three-year training in Aerospace, and after one year, studies are suspended. One year would accommodate industrial training to help a student acquire knowledge of what the industry wants in terms of job skills or attitudes and thereafter he or she becomes a potential employee after being trained in different departments of an organisation. When it comes to engineering training in UK, professional bodies like the Society of Mechanical Engineers come up with schemes for initial professional development skill.
Here in TUK, in the department of Aeronautical and Aviation Engineering, we have come up with something almost similar to that of Brunel. We have started preparing all the finalists students set to graduate this year to have an industry mentor who are either attached at Kenya Airways or Wilson Airport. This has been useful as the students acquire information on career, job prospects and attachment areas.
What are your experiences while training engineers both in Kenya and abroad?
Training period differs. In Kenya there is no clear specification of what engineers need to train at each stage so; it can be difficult to judge how competent one might be. As a member of Aeronautical Society of Kenya, we have written to the Engineering Board of Kenya (EBK) to come up with regulations that are in line with international practice to ensure that we train engineers in such a way they can work or practise internationally.
What are your experiences with the students you have been training in Kenya to become engineers, are they cut out to be entrusted with engineering projects so many Kenyans will depend on?
Training student engineers in Kenya is brilliant and they could do very well when entrusted with different projects. The students are not the issue and the experience gained is dependent upon the conditions of the universities, which tend to vary as time goes by. There is lack of that formality or rigidity in an academic environment where we should expect things such as research seminars, workshops taking place. As academicians we have a big role to play in provision of leadership training as students depend on the guidance they are given. It is clear that we don’t have sufficient and experienced lecturers in senior positions.
What is accreditation and how do you get engineering courses accredited in Kenya, could you compare it to the process elsewhere?
Accreditation is a quality assured mechanism for ensuring that the end product, that is the outcome of the student experience can reach a certain level. This mechanism has its components or standards that must be applied. There must be a very clear guidance or statement of what must be done and to what extent. So how do we accredit a university curriculum? For example, we can’t have programs simply because we want to fill university spaces. It is a national and expensive issue and the government is paying a lot of money to put up these programs. Therefore, there should be a main reason why a certain program should be mounted in the university curriculum. Each course proposed should run for a specific reason in a way that the graduate is guaranteed a job. The components of that course must point out what has to be done throughout the study year.
Another thing, there should be an overall course rationale or a background so as to come up with the overall objectives(reasons) of what is expected after the program. To ensure the program is credible, there is need to examine the components of the course itself. Like, what must you do to be able to do one thing or another, how many teachers, workshops and technical staff, do you need? After evaluating this, we have an approved program by Commission for University Education (CUE). The program is accredited with a curriculum and then it is implemented.
Accreditation is about delivering the outcomes of a competent program or implementation of a curriculum. If we have a case whereby a person has passed from year 1-5, someone can’t say the program is accredited, but partially approved. Partial or provisional approval means that we are confident in people who have undergone the program and that they can be in a scheme of training that leads to registration. But the course can’t be accredited because there is nobody employed from the program thus; we need to acquire a positive feedback from the industry trainers so as to declare a course accredited. After a period of five years, we make an assessment to prove whether the program can be accredited. Accreditation is not a matter of paper work; it is a matter of ensuring that people coming out of a program have attained certain competencies up to the level they are graduating and assuming they are trained well by the industry, we can then say we have accredited engineering courses.
In Brunel University, when Aeronautical engineering was started, the courses were similar to established ones thus accreditation of engineering courses would not take long. In Kenya, some courses are very new so accreditation may take longer than usual.
Considering that EBK has refused to recognize your engineering programs (TUK), do you think you have good quality programmes resulting in proper engineers?
All programs must be by nature developmental so there is no university around the country that is 100% good, that is never the case. The issue that arises is how a university is doing a certain course. So the question should be, how well are they developing the course as all of us have not achieved what would be required internationally. TUK has various inherent advantages when it comes to engineering. It has had previous involvement with the industry and the industry knows it well. This exploited to the right context can actually produce substantial improvements.
In 2014 and even in the past EBK has made some moves/announcements with the aim to protect the engineering education and practice in Kenya, are they justified?
To me i don’t see any justification of EBK protecting engineering education if they keep shutting out people in the registration process. What EBK needs to do is to go out to the industry, find out those engineers who are not registered then try and register them to combat unemployment issue among engineers. The oversight body should advise unregistered engineers on the value of being registered not arrest them.
We have seen the EBK take a central role in accrediting engineering programs in Kenya, what is their role juxtaposed with that of Commission of University Education (CUE) and the learning institutions.
Engineers Board of Kenya is an oversight authority established under Engineers Act of 2011. One must say that this Act needs a lot to be worked on. For example, the Act only refers to engineers as a ‘he’ not ‘she’, which is wrong. An oversight body should address equality and quality in what they do. We need to see a clear objective of offering courses that result in jobs to engineers. One thing that the body (EBK) can do is to facilitate industry training and experience for engineers. The issue of guidelines and standards must also come out clearly in any aspect of what an engineer would be doing once they are registered.
CUE is a guardian standard in intellectual base set by-law to approve courses.CUE chief’s objective is to ensure that only quality programs are delivered in the country. When a course is proposed, CUE does the due diligence to approve it and gives reasons why the course is necessary to be approved. CUE does monitoring of the baseline requirement for a course to continue existing. After CUE approves the courses, learning institutions play a role in delivering the programs as proposed by CUE.
We have been seeing the continued conversion of established technical colleges into universities, what drives this phenomenon and is it good for the country.
The reason for the transformation is because the government needed this cadre as it is critical to providing technical manpower for the realization of Kenya Vision 2030. This was a fantastic job that the government did or will continue to do for the industry.
What right mix should Kenya pursue with respect to training for technical skills at both the universities and the vocational institutes like polytechnics?
There should be more regulations put across when it comes to formulating different programs at either the university or polytechnic level so that they are broadly in line with the international practice. Our engineers should be given quality education so that they can also participate in international projects.
To support the academia produce the best qualified graduates for the job market, what role do/should the industry play?
The industry needs to come up with collaborations to support graduates. Like here in TUK, we have formed partnership with Kenya Airways (KQ) and Boeing Corporation to help students get attachments or internships. Also, Toyota has come in with the aim of forming a long strategic partnership to fund and support automotive students in pursuing their projects and attachments too.
Should there be any post university training for a graduate to be registered as an engineer, how best should the path to registration as a practicing engineer be structured in Kenya?
No. I do not think post university training is required when registering as an engineer. A post graduate training can be useful to people who are doing a transition in education. Registering a practicing engineer should be structured in a way that it does not punish the engineers but encourage them to register and shows them the importance of registration.
In the effort to delivery your duties as a tutor, do you encounter challenges? What in your view are the challenges that plague engineering education in the country?
Inadequate manpower and poor pay is one of the reasons why we have people not ready to join the academic career. The pay in academia is very low and someone having a master’s education will earn more than any other person with a different qualification. But being a lecturer is a calling in a way and issues of development and exposure among lecturers have to be solved.
What is the future of engineering education in Kenya; can the engineers deliver what Kenya requires?
The engineers can deliver so long as we do what is required and treat universities not as places of commercial activities when it comes to education. Universities should be places where scholars enjoy working and studying. We need more engagement with the community and promote research and innovation locally and internationally. I believe Kenyan engineers can do much better than foreigners.