It is beyond possibility to imagine the world’s civilization as it is today without computer technology. It is akin to trying to breathe without the lungs. An absolute futility. The center stage computers have taken in our daily lives has necessitated the need for its comprehensive literacy, and with a University that prides itself in being a trendsetter in higher education, research and innovation, it comes as no surprise that JKUAT has invested a lot towards offering the most viable and comprehensive computer and IT related courses. On our weekly segment of Course of the Week, we featured Bsc. Computer Science, a course offered in the School of Information and Computing (SCIT).
Today we share the insights of a few of the students who just completed their Computer Science degree course last semester, and who are waiting to graduate in the upcoming 27th Graduation Ceremony. I spoke with the representative of the class Canjetah Ngahu and other class members, one Caroline Kimathi, Eunice Otieno and Felix Makinda.
What inspired your decision to take Computer Science as a course?
Felix; Honestly, Computer Science was not part of my dreams growing up. I grew up fascinated by buildings hence Architecture. Settling for Computer Science was purely a result of weighing financial options. I came from a family that was struggling financially; Computer Science appeared the cheapest option. I needed only basic stationery to join a CS class.
Eunice; I had always been in love with computers and I was curious to learn more. Computers are among the least understood things in this part of the world, computer science was a good choice to gain this understanding
Caroline; That was mainly my interest in a technology. I always wanted to learn mostly on softwares and networks.
How did studying the course at JKUAT satisfy your expectations of the course?
Felix; I came from an environment where I had always been top but in JKUAT things were different; I met the best brains from the country. It is the first time in my academic life someone could beat me in math and science. The lecturers and students made me develop a totally new understanding of Computer Science, and I discovered that indeed with Computer Science, there is a lot one can do in life.
Eunice; The course at JKUAT was highly educative. It gave a good enough basis for an individual to understand the computer, and second, it left just enough out for the student to find out for themselves. It completely exceeded my expectations.
Canjetah; Definitely yes. I found it to be just more than what I expected. Comp science is like a big basket,you just have to select the best mangoes from the many.
What are some of the memorable experiences you have while studying the course?
Felix; Writing my first program in the C programming language! The first programming class almost made me drop out of the CS class. I had never heard of programming before.
Eunice; Boot camps and software development competitions as well as events were a good way to learn something new. The trips that we took to Mombasa and the nature walk to Karura were also very memorable.
Canjetah; Started mostly in second year,when all of us got used to each other. We really had teamwork in class,assisted where one would, had fun time on Friday evenings at the student centre, celebrated birthdays together,group discussions,and a finale party on completion. It was awesome.
Caroline; I remember in second year I was in a team that participated in the Technovation challenge where we won and got our department some desktop computers among other prizes. This was an honour and a very memorable moment for me.
In your opinion, what makes JKUAT the ideal institution to offer the course?
Felix; JKUAT is an institution that has a commendable culture in technology and innovation. Partnering with the likes of IBM, Cisco, Oracle, Microsoft, Google, JKUAT has developed a very formidable student community that always takes the world by a storm. iCEOD department is a facility of its kind; I presume the only one in Africa. Students can learn, develop, and deploy apps easily. The JKUAT teaching staff is made of the best lecturers the country can offer, with vast experience and exposure, the student has the most invaluable resources one can think of. Computer Science is more about practicing and research; the school has well-equipped computer labs, qualified technicians, and the internet is available at every corner in the school. With groups such as Google Developer Group in place, there is no limit to what one can learn.
Eunice; JKUAT has enough facilities to facilitate learning of computer science. It also hosts a lot of computer related events such as boot camps, certification programs and an annual JKUAT Tech Expo.
Caroline; The credibility of the campus and the reputation that it carries. The lectures are also well trained and really good in the things that they teach.
As you approach graduation, what are your current engagements that relate to what you studied?
Canjetah; I’m currently working on forming my company for software development,websites among others. I also plan on starting on my masters degree.
Felix; Am working as a freelancer where I engage in writing, programming and software development. In the process, I have hired a team of more than 15 that I work with. I am also a mentee at Cisco Systems Inc.
Eunice; I am currently an WIT intern at Safaricom.
Apart from employment, how do you plan to use your skills gathered in JKUAT to impact on the society?
Felix; I am planning to start a company that will leverage my skills and those of my closest allies in the CS class to develop solutions for the society. I will create more employment opportunities.
Canjetah; I look forward to becoming a lecturer. Nothing brings joy to me like passing on my knowledge to others,you only learn more.I also look forward to providing opportunities for young persons to appreciate the role of computers and technology in our dynamic world today.
What personalities in JKUAT had a significant impact in your Computer Science career development?
Felix; It is really hard to single someone out. The community has funded me, from school fees to electronics. However, to be fair, I must single out just a few. Prof. Gabriel Magoma, Director PAUISTI. He had recommended JKUAT years back while I was still in high school. He salvaged my sinking Computer Science ship. At a time when I seriously needed a laptop for my studies, he came to my aid. I was totally losing it. Then there’s Dr. George Okeyo, Chairman School of Computing, has always been supportive. I approached him when I could not find a place for industrial attachment; he offered something on the table. It is in his programming classes that I came to love Computer Science. There’s also Prof. Wafula of the iCEOD department who provided IBM training and certification opportunities from which I was exposed to more practical work and problem-solving skills.
Caroline; I could say Dr George Okeyo who was my supervisor for my end of year project. He was quite useful in my growth.
Eunice; Dr George Okeyo, my project supervisor and chairman of the department, he always encouraged me to do better and his belief in me helped me achieve alot more. Then there’s J. Wainaina, he was my first programming lecturer and the fundamentals that he taught me have gone a long way in helping me as I continue to enhance my programming skills. And not to forget Dr Ratemo, the passion and mastery of content she had was such an inspiration to me, I want to achieve that too.
Canjetah; Dr. George Okeyo, Chairman of the department. He was a lecturer and a father to our class,was always available for consultations and advice.Prof Waweru Mwangi, his classes were always different.I also thank him as my project coordinator. Dr.Stephen Kimani,our department director in school of computing. Always available for consultations and a good communicator. Prof.Muliaro ,his IBM work had lots of results in us.
If you were to travel back in time and become a student again, what would you do differently?
Felix; Perhaps what I can do is make more friends because the few months I have worked in trying to establish a company, I have understood that to be successful in something, you need a team. JKUAT has smart brains from diverse fields. With a common interest, you can mobilize peers into coming up with something massive that can positively transform the society.
Eunice; I would do everything exactly the same. I wouldn’t change the experience I had for the world!
Canjetah; I would learn the specializations I never did, but I have no regrets,I can say I did my best.
Caroline; At an academic level nothing much. What I would do as a student is maybe participate more in movements and clubs in the school.
According to the Chairman of the Department of Computing Dr. George Okeyo, the department has had high success rate since its inception in terms of student employment due to the nature of skills they acquire from the course and the content that is imparted to them. The department is however not complacent. “Going forward we plan to further review the content to be in tandem with the current ICT field and also expose our students to the industry early enough before they go for external attachment. We’ll have the industry players come here and interact with the students when they’re still in third year first semester.”