On Friday, 3rd November, 2023, Karatina University was honoured to host Her Excellency Pastor Dr. Dorcas Rigathi who visited the University to give a talk to staff and students on, “Vision for a dignified future for the youth.” The event was organized by the University in conjunction with National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) and the Office of the Spouse of the Deputy President.

Others who graced the event included Karatina University Council Chairman Prof. Francis Gichaga, the University Vice Chancellor, Prof. Linus M. Gitonga, Nyeri Deputy Governor Mr. David Kinarire, Mathira MP Hon. Eric Wamumbi, and Kenya’s Ambassador to India Amb. Peter Munyiri, among others.

Students during the Second Lady’s visit to the University

In his opening speech, the VC, Prof. Linus M. Gitonga said that the University had done what it could with the available resources to help students and staff who have been exposed to the effects of alcohol, drugs and poverty. Some of the measures include counselling, support for rehabilitation and recruiting staff with disabilities. The University has also been working closely with NACADA and has an annual plan on managing substance abuse. The VC added, “We intend to enhance these activities in view of the increased cases of mental health and suicide in the country.”

The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Linus M. Gitonga delivering his speech

Prof Gitonga further explained that the University has been working with the local community on a number of things, among them mentorship for high school students and capacity building for small-scale business people. To this, he said, “Your visit awakens another aspect that we will take along during visits to high schools, the reality of alcohol and substance abuse.”
The VC also reported that the University would participate in research recommended in the Nyeri County Mental Health Action Plan: 2023-27 to uncover the root causes of substance abuse in the area with a view to proposing practical solutions. “We will also convene an inclusive stakeholders’ engagement forum to explore the role of each one of us in the prevention of drug use, and management of substance use disorders among the youth.” He said.
The University was also considering establishing a substance use disorder crisis care centre with a 24/7 hotline number for crisis intervention and referral services.
The VC called for a partnership between the University and the Second Lady’s office in the said initiatives. He promised to use the University’s human resource to support the Her Excellency’s work in areas of research, advocacy and skills development.
He added that the University begun an initiative of training small business people last year to equip them with skills to enable them to run their businesses more sustainably. The University could widen this scope to target the groups that Her Excellency’s office is working with.
On his part, the University Council Chairman, Prof. Francis Gichaga, observed that agriculture has great potential to support vulnerable groups as three-quarters of Kenyans derive their livelihood from the sector. In line with this, Karatina University offers programmes in agriculture and has, albeit in a small way, attempted to offer extension services to the farmers in its neighbourhood.
Prof Gichaga thus concluded, “As a means of empowering your target group, we will endeavour to increase our coverage and seek to establish the necessary ingredients that will make the agricultural sector more attractive to the young unemployed youth who would otherwise go into drug abuse.”
He also echoed the VC’s commitment to work with the Second Lady’s office to help realize her goal of empowering the youth in the country.

The key note speaker was the Second Lady, whose talk focused on empowering the young generation, especially the boy child, to realize their full potential and lead dignified lives.

She noted that the boy child has been affected by the challenges of drug abuse and alcohol consumption in a big way. She encouraged the students not to allow their backgrounds to determine their future and instead work hard with focus and believe in God.

Her Excellency Pastor Dr. Dorcas Rigathi delivering her speech

She encouraged the youth to open up whenever they faced difficulties, as a way of dealing with the alarming high suicide rates among the youth. Her Excellency further explained that preliminary talks had started with Karatina University management to open a crisis center. Responding to an earlier request by the Vice Chancellor, she extended her partnership with the University to have a helpline that will be open on a 24/7 basis. This would not only create employment for the University students but also provide the necessary help to students in distress.

The Second Lady further stated that she would work with the University to upgrade the University’s crisis center to a rehabilitation center for those affected by drug and substance abuse in order to serve the community better.

I conclusion, Her Excellency called upon the University to set up a digital hub to enable the students learn how to access online jobs platforms and hence become self-employed.

From left, Mathira MP Hon. Eric Wamumbi, Karatina University Vice Chancellor, Prof. Linus Gitonga, Second Lady H.E. Pastor Dr. Dorcas Rigathi, Karatina University Council Chairman Prof. Francis Gichaga and Nyeri Deputy Governor Mr. David Kinarire.