UNESCO Nairobi new Director pays a visit to the University of Nairobi

On 14 July 2021, the new UNESCO Regional Director for Eastern Africa, Professor Hubert Gijzen, paid a courtesy visit to University of Nairobi (UoN) Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen Kiama. In his first visit since he moved to Nairobi as the new Regional Director for UNESCO on 1 July 2021, Prof. Gijzen noted that he is happy to be back in familiar territory at the UoN, an institution he used to visit regularly since the late 1980s.

Welcoming him, the Vice-Chancellor noted that the University enjoys cordial relations with UNESCO and he hopes that this will be deepened during his tenure. At the meeting, Prof. Walter Jaoko, Director of Kenya AIDS Vaccine Initiative (KAVI) Institute of Clinical Research gave a brief summary of RADA Mobile Application, an innovative digital platform developed by UoN students with technical support from UNESCO to address the myriad of challenges faced by young people and to promote health and wellbeing using IT.

In his remarks, Prof. Gijzen noted that RADA provides an opportunity for expanded partnership between UNESCO and the UoN since the education system is crucial in bringing behavioral change especially among young people. He noted that COVID-19 has underscored the importance of education for health and wellbeing.

The UNESCO Regional Director took the opportunity to introduce the O3 Plus, a four-year programme on health and wellbeing in tertiary institutions in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe supported by the Governments of Switzerland and Sweden. He observed that O3 Plus is an offshoot of the UNESCO Flagship Programme Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future (O3), which is active in 33 countries in Africa, and which he nurtured during his tenure in the UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa, based in Harare, Zimbabwe. He promised to work with UoN to ensure that the programme will generate transformational change for students. In Kenya, the programme will be implemented in all UoN’s 10 campuses, he said.

The Director highlighted that the programme will strengthen curriculum delivery on a broad set of issues, including GBV, early unintended pregnancies, HIV and comprehensive sexuality education. He stated that, in the region, the age group with highest number of new HIV infections is 15-24 years old, and therefore it’s important to bring this programme to tertiary and higher education students. He reminded that “…in the absence of a cure, education is the only vaccine available”. The programme will also build the capacity of lecturers and promote health and wellbeing through innovative strategies including campus radio and mass media among others.

Beyond the O3 Plus Programme, other areas explored for partnership between UNESCO and UoN are ICT in education, water management, acceleration of SDGs, promotion of a conducive environment for journalists as well as connecting universities in the region and the continent based on themed priorities to ensure relevance and quality higher education.

The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Kiama, on his part expressed gratitude for UNESCO continued partnership, saying he looks forward to its strengthening with the new Director. He emphasized that as the oldest institution of higher learning in Kenya, the University is well positioned to offer leadership and requisite support to make the O3 Plus a success.

In moving the O3 Plus programme forward it was agreed that the baseline survey and health facilities assessment study be commissioned soon to inform the gaps that need to be addressed. In addition, a technical team from both agencies will put together a partnership agreement that will be signed during the launch event to be held in September 2021.

Also present at the meeting were Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic Affairs, Director of ICT, Director of Corporate Affairs, Representative of National Commission for UNESCO in Kenya and UNESCO Health and Wellbeing National Professional Officer.


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