New Dawn for Daystar University: Launch of School of Law

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2035

By Lillian Wamuyu

Daystar University is popularly known for its commitment to the Christian faith with the name ‘Daystar’ derived from the Bible verse in 2nd Peter 1:19 which reads “…..until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.”.Against this background, students and staff members are expected to conduct themselves in a way that reflects on Christian principles and values. Daystar was founded in 1964 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe by Dr. Donald and Mrs.Faye K. Smith, an American missionary couple, and Dr. S.E Motsoko Pheko, a political refugee from South Africa.

Four years later, a Christian Publishing Ministry, Daystar Publications was established under the leadership of Dr. Pheko while the Smiths launched Daystar Communications in Zimbabwe which was incorporated in the USA in the same year. In 1994, Daystar Communications moved its headquarters to Nairobi, Kenya following a civil war in Zimbabwe. It was incorporated in Kenya as a non-profit company which later established a small training institute. Daystar remained and remains consistent to her vision to train Christian communicators and in 1976, the institute began to offer a two year post high school diploma programme in Christian Communications. In a journey of faith, Daystar continued to expand her wings and in collaboration with Wheaton College, Illinois, USA, in 1978, launched a two-year M.A programme in Christian Communications and Christian Ministries. Prof. Stephen Talitwala with support of the Afro-Asia Board of Directors led the Daystar University College through a fast and challenging growth period which saw Daystar receive a Charter from the Kenya Government to become Daystar University on September, 1994.

Daystar University rapidly expanded and to date has two campuses with the main campus located at Athi River and the other at Nairobi Campus. The university currently has six schools with the newest addition being the School of Law. Speaking during the launch of the School of Law, Daystar University Ag. Vice- Chancellor, Rev. Prof James Kombo emphasized on the mission and aspirations of the university to be a distinguished, Christ-centred African institution of higher learning for the transformation of church and society. “Our mission is that Daystar University exists to develop managers, professionals, researchers, and scholars to be effective, Christian servant-leaders through the integration of Christian faith and holistic learning for the transformation of church and society in Africa and the world,” noted Rev. Prof. Kombo.

Although the institution is founded on Christian principles, the university admits students and staff from different religions and faith backgrounds. This in line with the Christian faith to love all people and in furtherance of the command in Matthew Chapter 28….to go into the world and witness to everyone…. Thus the doors are open to all and while at it, the Christians try to witness to the unbelievers.

The newly launched School of Law

On November 14, 2018, Daystar University, Nairobi Campus played host to scores of speakers and dignitaries at the launch of the School of Law. Prior to the launch, there was a lot of work and activities that culminated to the licensing of the school on July 31st, 2018 by the Council of Legal Education. The journey to the realization of this dream included countless meetings in designing the curriculum which included meetings with stakeholders who gave their views on the kind of lawyers they would wish to see practice in the country and on how to improve the current legal environment. The initial drafts of the curriculum were shared with the stakeholders who gave their inputs on what was to be included on the revised curriculum. Further, a market survey was conducted and this included interviewing different people to get their views on the current advocates and some of the complaints and challenges they encounter when dealing with lawyers. Findings from the survey were incorporated in the development stages of the curriculum. To meet the requirements by CLE, the steering committee had ensured that the facilities were up to standards with a fully equipped library that consisted many imported books, a fully functional eLibrary and computer lab. The council inspected the school of law in May 2017 and gave their recommendations and on July 31st 2018, the school received the license which allowed access for the first admissions in September, 2018. Currently, the school of law has 14 students but the school has the capacity to admit up to 60 students. The number of staff presently stands at 10 with six members of faculty, two librarians, and two administrators. This number is expected to rise during the next intake which is scheduled for January, 2019.

The School of Law future plan is to offer Master’s degree program beginning in 2020 where lawyers will have the opportunity to specialize in Media and Communications Law, Intellectual Property Rights Law, and Medical Law and Ethics. Speaking at the launch, the Dean, School of Law, Prof. Moni Wekesa applauded the school for her commitment to highest legal training. “At the School, we have embraced modern methods of teaching and assessment such as problem-based learning, mooting, oral examinations, and use of an array of ICT facilities. We strive to be the school of choice for legal studies in the region.”

Moot court experience

Daystar University School of Law has what they pride in as a “state-of the art moot court” which offers practical experience to students and help them develop interpersonal skills that are key in the market. For every course that students take, they are required to research a case which they present and argue it out against each other during moot court practicals. This allow some students to appear as the complainants while others pose as advocates, while others act as judicial officers in what is a mock exercise of a real court scenario. This exercise has been built in the curriculum from year one to year four.

Interpersonal skills play a very crucial role in the practice of law and moot court sessions. In an interview with the Platform magazine team, Prof. Wekesa highlighted some of the skills that students gain. “Students are expected to gain research skills, public speaking skills, debating skills, and listening skills. This is because students must research on a case, present the case, argue for or against an opposing argument and for those particularly practising to be judges, learn to listen to both arguments and make a decision.”

To sharpen their skills and to bridge what is taught in schools with practical experiences from work places, students are expected to go for at least two months’ internship in the general industry such as security firms, manufacturing companies and organizations among other places. During this period, the student is expected to identify legal issues that are likely to come out. At the end of year three, the students will go to the courts to practice as magistrates so that they listen and experience the arguments from both sides of the divide for a minimum of two weeks. Between year four, semester one and year four semester two, students are linked with international internships where students will go out of the country for three months to experience how things work in various countries across the globe.

To this “ says Prof Moni Wekesa, the Dean of the law school, “ the School of Law is in collaboration with about 100 international institutions in the United States, Europe, and Africa. This includes the World Bank in Washington, International Centre for the Settlement of Trades Disputes in Washington, The International Chamber of Commerce in London, The International Telecommunications Union in Geneva, United Nations Conference for Trade and Development, African Union in Addis Ababa, The African Court for Peoples’ and Human Rights in Arusha, The East African Assembly in Arusha, The European Court of Human Rights, International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg, The International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court both at the Hague to name but some,”.

These are some of the organizations the school is collaborating with to try and expose law students to an international perspective and to give them a more practice approach.

Niche Area

Currently, there are 13 law schools in the country but what makes Daystar University, School of Law stand out is the niche area that the school has chosen to focus on. The school is focusing on Media and Communications Law and Intellectual Property Rights Law. This is definitely a significant niche area which is practical in the market today. One would therefore expect that students graduating from Daystar University, SoL, will be well equipped and grounded in the areas of Media Law, Communications Law which includes communication via the internet, Broadcast media, online and digital media which touches on the likes of WhatsApp and social media. Further, such a lawyer will be conversant with possible case scenarios that may arise in terms of Intellectual Property Rights Law as demand for such lawyers is on the rise to address emerging trends in new media and communication.

Centre for Medical Law and Ethics

Over and above, the new school of law has set up a centre for Medical Law and Ethics which seeks to work collaboratively with hospitals and medical centres in the area. The school of law, situated along the junction of Valley Rd and Ngong Rd which is surrounded with eight public and private hospitals. These include Kenyatta National Hospital, Nairobi Hospital, Coptic Mission Hospital, Nairobi Women- Hurlingham, Nairobi Women- Adams Archade, Mbagathi Hospital, and the Karen Hospital.

The centre is intended to provide an interaction between the school and members of the public with an objective to raising awareness on medical-legal issues and in adherence to a commitment to educating the public on their rights whenever they go to seek health care services. On the same breath, the centre will educate health care professionals such as nurses, doctors, and clinical officers on their obligations and rights as they offer services to the patients. These will address the growing counter accusations between patients or their relatives versus the health providers and in cases that present a dilemma to lawyers.

Another very critical area which raises an ethical dilemma is on the intensive care medicine. While as the challenge lies on the reality that most facilities have very few beds at the intensive care unit which are mostly occupied at any given time, it’s a challenge for the doctors to decide which patients is given priority over the other. Case in point is a hospital in Nairobi with for example 20 beds which are occupied. With a likely possibility of a patient who is brought in and in dire need of intensive care, at what point does a healthcare provider decides to disconnect one patient to pave way to the other patient who is critically ill; and in such a case disconnection means death. This are daily challenges that health care workers have to live with and thus the medical centre seeks to address emerging medical and legal challenges.

The medical centre will not only educate and create legal awareness to health workers but will also offer short courses on medical law and ethics. The centre will make this possible by establishing partnerships through special MOUs with the respective hospitals which will allow them to enrol their staff for short courses and training. To achieve this and to reach the public, the centre will organize community forums through which members of public will have an opportunity to ask related questions and receive real time responses from professionals in both medical and legal sectors. To be able to address the legal challenges as presented in the medical sector, the centre has planned to carry out a research in that area to be able to better understand and address the challenges as experienced in the country. The findings will be used to craft solutions with an aim of overcoming and improving that space.

Legal Training and holistic students’ development

The School of Law is dedicated not only to graduating lawyers but far and beyond to channelling lawyers who will hold firmly to cardinal virtues and values. To enhance the development of students in a more holistic manner focusing not only on the academics but also on morals and values development, the institution is founded on Christian principles. It is thus compulsory for students to attend church service and Bible study on Tuesdays and Thursdays respectively. Something that Chief Justice Hon. Maraga pointed out during his speech at the launch, “An institution like this needs to be a reference point of morality and ethics. If we cannot reference this, where else can we find such at a time when our country is laden with numerous challenges including, but not limited to corruption, gruesome killing of innocent young people, dishonesty at the workplace and even at home. The country needs people and more so legal professionals who can stand up for truth, honesty and godliness. We need lawyers who put God first in their lives and in their profession.”

Further, there are sporting facilities where students can choose sports to join and this offers a platform to learn and interact with fellow students. To increase social interaction, there are clubs and students are at liberty to join the club which aligns to their interests. This approach is aimed at helping students to develop in all aspects of their lives in a way that will help them gain life skills and make it easy for them to fit into the real world outside school.

On challenges of Emerging Trends such as Artificial Intelligence

The newly launched School of Law is alive to new challenges posed by new innovations and developments in the global space. This includes the case of Sofia the robot that was launched in Saudi Arabia and became the first robot to gain citizenship with rights. Others include cases of genetically modified foods and cases of digital and online communication such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram among others. While as this emerging challenges will pose new threats and disruption in how law has been traditionally practised, Daystar, School of Law, in the department of Intellectual Property Rights provides a guideline on how such cases can be managed. Prof. Wekesa notes, “Sofia, the robot belongs to somebody who created her; so whatever that robot is doing if somebody else wants to recreate such a robot, there are intellectual property rights and one may need to pay the inventor.”

Other aspects of communications and media such as the application of artificial intelligence on some gadgets making them able to respond to certain commands has been taken care of under the Media and Communications Law. The School is already teaching this courses while dancing at the frontier of communications knowledge like what is happening in the internet, electronic media and the impact of such developments. Further, this knowledge is meant to protect both the inventors and the consumers in that the creator makes the maximum returns and in possibility of harmful technology, people are protected. A sure commendable thing about this institution is the ability to anticipate future challenges and to derive solutions in such eventualities.

The Symbols of Authority for Daystar University, School of Law

In addition to the launch of the School of Law, the Chief Guest, Chief Justice David Maraga, led the ceremony of unveiling the Symbols of Authority for the Daystar University, School of Law and three publications by the Faculty Members. This included: The Letter of Accreditation, Colours of the School, Research Methods for Lawyers and other Professionals, Writing and Drafting both by Prof. Moni Wekesa, and The Daystar University Law Journal, and The Centre for Medical Law and Ethics.

In his remarks, The Chief Justice noted, “I believe you are the first and only University to give Medical Law and Ethics such prominence. I am also delighted to note that despite being a very young School, you have already embraced the academic tradition of publishing scholarly materials. I am impressed that today you will launch your Law Journal and other academic books.”

The launch was graced by notable personalities, partners, and stakeholders drawn from different sectors and industries. This included: The Hon. Justice David Maraga, Chief Justice and President of The Supreme Court of Kenya, Daystar Founder Dr. Donald Smith, Prof. Henry Moses Thairu, The Chairman Daystar University Council, Former Chairman of Daystar Company, Dr. James Mageria, The Ag. Vice Chancellor, Rev.Prof. James Kombo, Former Chancellor of Daystar University, Dr. Florence Muli-Musiime, Former VCs, Prof. Stephen Talitwala and Prof. Godfrey Nguru, Members of the Clergy, Members of the Daystar University Company, Senate, Council, and Management Board, Daystar Alumni, Deans of other Law Schools, and Members of the Legal Fraternity among others.

The spectacularly organized launch was concluded with cutting and sharing of cake in colourful ceremony which earlier started with a tour of the School of Law, unveiling of the Plaque at the Moot Court and Ribbon Cuttingby the Chief Justice, and a procession which was led by the Kenya Police Band.

As the star dawns, may the new School of Law present a new frontier in legal training in Kenya and beyond.