The Presbyterian University of East Africa (PUEA) is a private university founded in 2007 by the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA). The University is registered with the Commission for University Education (CUE). It is mandated to offer university education through her quality academic programmes approved by the University Senate, Professional bodies and the Commission for University Education. The University is located in a serene and conducive learning environment in Thogoto, Kikuyu – the cradle of education in Kenya.
The genesis of education as an integral component of the activities of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) dates back to the arrival of the first Church of Scotland Missionaries in Kenya. The missionaries realized that there was need to create a literate African Christian community who could read the Bible, teach other members of the community and act as interpreters for the missionaries in their endeavors to preach the Gospel. Formal schools were established as part of the activities of the mission work, initially at Kibwezi in 1891, and later at Thogoto Mission Centre in September, 1898.
From this early beginnings, there was rapid acceptance of education by the local communities. This necessitated the establishment of more schools by the church jointly with the respectively local communities, particularly in the central region of Kenya. Between 1914 and 1920, the number of pupils enrolled in the church-supported primary schools rose from 709 to 2983, approximately a three-fold growth in a six-year period. This growth encouraged the Scottish Missionaries to reach out to the more communities in Tumutumu in Nyeri, Chogoria in Meru as well as around Nairobi and its environs.
During this time, the African pupils were given only four years of primary education, mainly for the purpose of being able to read and write. The Church of Scotland Mission, jointly with the Methodist Church of Kenya (MCK) and the Gospel Mission Society (GMS), recognized that the search for knowledge could not be limited to the basic level of being able to read and write. This recognition led to the formation of an alliance of protestant church missions for the purposes of establishment of Alliance High School in 1926. The Church of Scotland Mission provided the land on which Alliance High School was established. In 1948, the church played yet another crucial role in the establishment of the African Girls High Schools, which later became Alliance Girls High School in 1963. These institutions were established in Kikuyu with mutual support of the local community led by their Christian adherents. This initiative formed a basis of developing an African elite of educators, managers, business entrepreneurs and political leaders.
The Church of Scotland Mission and later, its successor, the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA), together with the local communities continued to develop more primary and secondary schools in most parts of the then Central, Eastern and some parts of the Rift Valley Provinces.
Apart from its involvement in education, the Presbyterian Church of East Africa has continued to develop health facilities along-side the other missionary activities. In 1908, the first permanent hospital in Central Region of Kenya was established at Thogoto Mission Centre and named the Hunter Memorial Hospital (later renamed Kikuyu Mission Hospital and presently PCEA Kikuyu Hospital. The missionaries started a second hospital at Tumu Tumu in l9l0 in Nyeri District (now Nyeri County), followed later by yet a third hospital at Chogoria in 1922 in the then Meru District (Tharaka-Nithi County). These hospitals have expanded their facilities and services over the years to include the training of enrolled nurses. The quality of health care provided in these hospitals is comparable to that provided by other private hospitals in the country, but at a comparatively lower cost for services.
The significance of Thogoto Mission Centre in the history of education in Kenya under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa and its predecessor, the Church of Scotland Mission (CSM), was aptly captured by one of its beneficiaries, the first President of the Republic of Kenya, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta who said that, “Thogoto became a centre not only for religion, but also for education.” (in a speech delivered on the occasion of the Inauguration of the Seventieth Anniversary Celebrations of the Presbyter ian Church of East Africa at Thogoto, Kikuyu: Minutes of PCEA General Administration Committee, 1968:67.)
It is this contribution of the early missionaries to the history of education in Kenya that the Presbyterian Church of East Africa used to establish a university whose foundations are embedded in the bedrock of Christian faith and values across the East African region.
The need for a Church Sponsored University
The need to establish a university under the sponsorship of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) was proposed, discussed and accepted by the 12th PCEA General Assembly in April 1988 under resolution 2093. Arising from this resolution, a steering committee was set up and charged with the responsibility of developing a proposal for the establishment of the university. The membership of the Steering Committee was expanded later to include professionals with relevant experience in the development and management of universities as modern and highest centers for learning and social change.
The church, through the Presbyterian Foundation, set aside 100 acres of land at Thogoto Mission Centre for the development of a university. Further, a building committee was established to coordinate the development of the physical facilities. This committee raised funds from the PCEA congregations region wide and from other well-wishers. The committee undertook the construction of the first administration and teaching block of the University; hence, a theological college was established here in the late 1890’s which was known as “The Presbyterian College”.This was a precursor to the Presbyterian University of East Africa (PUEA) established in 2007 to provide holistic and transformational university education based on Christian values.Thus, given the commendable efforts of the church in education during the early part of the last century and the demand for high quality tertiary education, the Presbyterian Church of East Africa joined in the challenging efforts of advancing the frontiers of knowledge through education in Kenya by establishing a full-fledged university named the “The Presbyterian University of East Africa” located within the Thogoto Mission Centre, Kikuyu, approximately 20 km from the City of Nairobi on Kikuyu-Thogoto Road. Today, the University can be accessed through the Southern bypass that runs from Kikuyu to the City of Nairobi with easy access to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).
The University has adequate physical facilities and equipment that support the academic programmes offered. They include the Administration Block; the Edward Danks Library; the Albright Ladies’ hostels; the students’ center; the guest houses; the staff houses; the new buildings which house classrooms, lecture halls, laboratories and offices for the schools of business and education, and the first aid room with the support of Korea Presbyterian Church the University has new lecture rooms to accommodate about 250 students in six lecture halls.
To date, the University has developed innovative and practical academic programmes across a wide range of disciplines. It has established a vibrant learning culture and attracted a large number of students at both undergraduate and graduate levels. The University maintains an ecumenical Christian aura where the application of knowledge and skills is guided by Christian values.
Over time the University has grown by leaps and bounds. In September 2016, the University became one of the recipients of Government Sponsored Students and has a current population of over 2800 students including privately sponsored ones and a growing foreign students community.
The Presbyterian University of East Africa (PUEA) offers educational programmes founded on the values of Christian transformational education, research, professional integrity, self-reliance and service to God and humanity. The University is a faith-based institution, serving all with equity and dignity, regardless of ethnicity, creed or culture while safe-guarding human and gender rights. The University aspires to anchor its motto, “Finding New Paths” (Jeremiah 6:16), in its values of academic excellence. The University embraces responsible freedom of thought, selfless service, value addition to life, respect for self and others, accountability, self-reliance, discipline, truth, integrity, honesty, justice, tolerance, transparency, and fair play.
The University will continue to build on the four pillars of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) namely:
Pillar 1: – Evangelism through its Churches,
Pillar 2: – Education for all through its schools, colleges and the University i.e. PUEA,
Pillar 3: – Health for all through its hospitals and health centers, and
Pillar 4: – Community service through its community centers
Under the Education Pillar, the church established the University under the General Assembly Resolution number 2093of April, 1988. Since its inception, the University has hired qualified academic staff to teach and carry out research over the years.
The Presbyterian University of East Africa (PUEA) received a Letter of Interim Authority (LIA) from the the Commission for Higher Education (CHE) now the Commission for University Education (CUE) on 10th August 2007 and admitted its first students in August 2008. The LIA was extended for another four (4) years with effect from 14th December 2016 to 22nd December 2020.