Tuesday, March 9, 2021

On March 4, the Department of History and Archeology hosted an international webinar on, “On UoN@50: An epitome of philanthropy.”

The exciting webinar kicked off with a statement from the VC, Prof. Stephen Kiama recognizing the tremendous impact of philanthropy to the establishment and development of the University of Nairobi.  “As we celebrate 50 years of existence, we want to look back and fondly remember the men and women of Asian descent who started this university in the 1940’s through their generous contributions.” Said the VC.   “As a university, we are indeed a confirmation that giving for a cause is seeing the bigger picture. He added.

College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS) Principal, Prof. Mohamud Jama noted that CHSS was the greatest beneficiary of the Asian community’s generosity over the years. “We have 54% of the university student population and majority have benefited through scholarships and funds established by people of Asian descent” said the Principal. “The Gandhi memorial wing built by contributions from the Asians hosts majority of schools and departments including the faculty of Arts and School of Economics among other departments.” He added.

Department of History Chairman, Dr. Ken Ombongi in his remarks said, “Never before, in the history of East Africa has an institution been a product of efforts by so many people, in so many ways like the University of Nairobi was in its nascent years in the 1950’s.The government then, the Asian community (Indians), international organizations and countries contributed resources in the construction of what would become the university of Nairobi in the 1970’s.”

High Commissioner of India to Kenya, H.E. Virander Paul said that the journey of the University of Nairobi from its beginning to where it is now is great story that needs to be told and retold multiple times. “I would like to acknowledge the longstanding and mutual relationship that the Indian High Commission has had with the University of Nairobi” He added.  “The connection between Mahatma Gandhi and the University of Nairobi in 1956 is among the early bonds between the University and India.”  Recalling, H.E Narendra Modi(Indian Prime Minister’s visit to UoN in 2016) and the subsequent donation of funds for the refurbishment of the Mahatma Gandhi graduate library, the diplomat said the relationship between Kenya and India will continue to grow stronger.  

Next a panel of speakers made their remarks on the subject of the day including Mr Thiagarajan Ramamurthy and Dr.  Bimal Kantaria. The keynote speaker was Mr Sharad Rao.

In his remarks, Dr. Bimal Kantaria noted that Asians had been doing charity work for years and that it was considered a norm to give back to the community without expecting anything in return. “ It has always been our responsibility to develop communities around us.” He noted.

Mr. Thiagarajan Ramamurthy on his part noted that the webinar was an eye opener for the millennials, “It is important for the young people to know of the contributions made by the Indian community among others unsung heros who go ahead to make life changing contributions in the society.”

In an enlightening keynote presentation, Mr. Sharad Rao, former Chairman of the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board said, “The UoN which is ranked the best universities in Africa has come a long way from the time when education of the Africans was provided only by the Christian missionaries.”

“The colonial government did not want Africans to be trained in academic subjects rather they wanted to impact in them practical skills hence they set up in September 1952 the Royal Technical College Nairobi, where the foundation stone was laid in 1952. During the same period, the Asian community was planning to build a memorial for Mahatma Gandhi in the form of a college open to all races. One Dr. Yajnik came from India for the sole purpose of raising money for the Gandhi memorial college- a number of prominent Indians contributed towards the building of the principal building and residence halls-the total amount collected in those days before 1956 was to the tune of 500,000 pounds.” Remarked Mr Rao.

Dr. Manu Chandaria, a prominent philanthropist during discussions observed that philanthropy was more than money since many can still offer time and skills to support various causes in the community.  

While appreciating noble acts of philanthropy, there were multiple calls for accountability and dialogue between philanthropists and recipients.The Webinar was highly attended with over 140 participants from across the world including, Asia, Europe and Africa.

Click here to watch the recordings of the webinar.