Ayiro. Africa

The Person, the Leader , the Academician and Family Man: Unveiling Prof . Laban Peter Ayiro

By Lydia Radoli , PhD
School of Communication – Daystar University

Of the many things that makes him stand out, is his sense of raw humour. Even as he intertwines an academic disposition, seasoned leadership and spiritual charisma, Prof. Laban Ayiro is a man of many talents.

He is a Professor of Research Methods and Statistics, the Vice Chancellor (VC) of Daystar University, a Research Consultant, a church elder, a former civil servant and above all a family man.

He was born in 1957 and raised in the sprawling Kibera slums to driver father, the only son of his mother, as he likes to say. Pof. Ayiro has a deeper understanding of the inkling nudge to uncloak the shroud of poverty, and improve situations of things around him and people who have connected with him.

One of the most striking mantra as he begins a conversation ahead of his inaugural lecture and launch of his new website, is his deep thinking and application of the Jewish philosophy- “ever seeking for knowledge and empowerment”.

“ Iam somebody with a very humble background, growing up the slums of Kibera has defined my life in a very special way, and dictated my path, and how I relate to other human beings”

He attributes his aspirations towards scholarly work, leadership and social interactions to a strong urge to out run his past . It is a very strong driver in his path. He explains. Prof. Ayiro is a strong believer in being aware of ones humble beginnings. An individual must stay in touch with where they are coming from. He emphasizes.

“ I have never forgotten that it doesn’t matter: I can dine with the kings but I can never loose a common touch”. Humility, a God fearing nature, love for family, describes who Ayiro is.

He narrates the core of his identity: “I was born alone, alone means I was the only child to my mother. You know its only mothers who can define how many others will be your brother and sisters. Then as fate would have it, I married Agnes, who was also an only child, so we had this deep desire to have children, we were looking for brothers we never had sisters we never had”.

Prof. Ayiro is a devoted husband and father to his seven children. In 2013, he lost a daughter, and adopted her child, a little girl of four years then, whom he embraces as his own daughter. This shows his deep rootedness in family.

“So I have a family from Agnes of seven children , we have also adopted two orphaned children, and now have a grand child whose mother died , so my family is growing ten , eleven, twelve -fold”. Prof. Ayiro shares.

Becoming A Professor

Was becoming a Professor something he planned and worked towards?

“I really don’t think I purposed to become a Professor, I had a major disappointment in my life after my A level exams in Mangu High School. I was the top student in the class and was expecting to go to medicine because that was, and is still the ultimate career. When the results came out, I was short of the cut mark, they wouldn’t allow me to go for medicine.” He expounds

Prof. Ayiro would then change his focus towards excelling academically, he first thought, banking was the profession for him. He would make a lot of money and achieve the things he desired to out run his impoverished past.

However, his late mother’s voice would make the biggest sense of his life, at the time of his career dilemma.

“My mother made a profound statement and said: You hoped to be a doctor, but God wants you to be a teacher and you will make a great teacher”. He narrates.

With that emphatic and profound assurance Prof. Ayiro embarked on his journey to become an educationist.

“ That’s how I accepted to go for the Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Education programme. Prof. Ayiro received a scholarship from the Canadian International Development Agency ( CIDA) for a degree in Education Teaching Chemistry & Mathematics from McGill University Canada, where he graduate d in 1974.

His teaching experience spans over 40 years having commenced in 1977 in a little known Namulungu Secondary School in Western Kenya, as an Assistant Teacher. He also held stints as Head Teacher in Kegoye and Lubinu High Schools.

He rose through the ranks to become one of the most celebrated educationists in the country. Between 1995 to 2000, he was the Senior Principal of Sunshine Secondary School, a post that earned him the Silver Star Of Kenya – a Presidential National Award for Outstanding Leadership Performance at the School.

“The urge that I had to keep me out of the slums pushed me to focus on my studies, I went on to do three masters, a PhD and Post Doc and then of course with the publications, I became a professor. So, is that my default mode?. No! I think Iam closer to being a Pentecostal Church of God (PAG) pastor than a professor”. He chuckles.

Humility is the Measure of True Greatness

Prof. Ayiro explains that both of his parents exhibited an admirable level of humility, simplicity, and humanity. None of them would speak English, his mother was not able to write, but she read the bible very well. It is this humbleness that stands out as a virtue in the professor with global presence.

“I have found strength in meekness all the time that: true greatness is measured by ones humility. So I attribute that to my parents, they have had a great impact on me and that is the essence that: your best friend is your parent, your parent cannot wish you ill.” Prof. Ayiro poses.

From humble beginnings to a path of greatness, Prof. Ayiro attained his Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Business Management from Kenyatta University in 2018. He dedicated his PhD thesis to his mother. An upcoming book on leadership is dedicated to his father. He says his desire is that posterity will know about them through his works.

In 2003, Prof. Ayiro graduated with his first Masters of Science and Entrepreneurship Studies from Kenyatta University. He graduated with a second Masters of Arts (MA) in International Relations, from United States International University (USIU), in 2004.
He attained his third Masters in Education Finance, Economics & Planning in 2013 from the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa.

In 2011, he received the Senior Fulbright Fellowship award for research and teaching at Texas A&M University in the United States of America, where he did his Post- Doc in mixed methods research.

He became a full Professor of Research Methods, awarded by Moi University in 2018. In March 2019, Prof. Ayiro was appointed Vice Chancellor of Daystar University after serving for two years in Moi University as Acting Vice Chancellor.

He has served in the capacities of Director of Quality Assurance and Deputy Vice Chancellor Administration and Planning. He has over 40 years of experience in Educational Management, Administration and Leadership including:

Having served as Provincial Director of Education, Deputy and Senior Deputy Director of Education at the Kenya Education Management Institute, Senior Deputy Director for Policy and Planning at the Ministry of Education; and Senior Deputy Director for Research and Curriculum Development at Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development.

The Inaugural Lecture

While he did not submit an inaugural lecture at Moi University as expected, Prof.Ayiro has taken up this baton to serve as his legacy and leave a precedence in Daystar University. In this regard, on 23rd of July 2021 Prof. Ayiro will be making his inaugural lecture.

“ An inaugural lecture validates your professorship, and when I talk about professorship, I mean being a full professor, there is a difference between an associate professor and a full professor there is a path to climb to a full professor”. He explains.

According to the Commission of University Education (CUE) guidelines, to become a full professor one must meet the following requirements:

a) An earned PhD or equivalent degree qualification in the relevant field from accredited and recognized university.
b) At least three (3) years teaching experience as an Associate Professor or equivalent; and research experience
c) A minimum of sixty (60) equivalent publication points since attaining Associate Professorship or equivalent of which at least forty (40) should be from refereed scholarly journals.
d) Supervised a minimum of five (5) postgraduate students to completion, at least two at doctoral level.
e) Registered with the relevant professional body (where applicable); and
f) Attracted research or development funds as an Associate Professor or equivalent.

Prof. Ayiro has successfully supervised over 60 postgraduate students of which, 47 have completed their masters and over 20 successfully completed their doctorates under his supervision.

An inaugural lecture is huge academic milestone, in which the Professor is expected to explain to the world his area of expertise and endevour . A professor of Research Methods, Ayiro will make a lecture titled: Mixed Methods Research: Myth or Reality.

The Paradigm of Mixed Methods Research

Prof. Ayiro has delved and engaged in scholarly authorship in the area of research methods, both in his doctoral and post doctoral studies, which looked at mixed methods research, an area that is hardly 20 years old.

“ I had the advantage to interact with the best in the world, Prof. Ryan Glover at Texas A & M , Prof. John Creswell and the others . I did a study on the Emotional Intelligence (EI) of Principals in Kenya and I used a mixed methods approach, where I collected data on performance so we a psychosomatic test on Emotional Quotient (EQ) and Intelligent Quotient (IQ). Then I did interviews from within and without to give a perspective”. He highlights on his post- doctoral research journey.

Prof. Ayiro is passionate about research methods and takes every opportunity to explain and teach to willing audiences. The interview with him, coupled as a lesson in research methods. He explained that mixed methods research makes research stronger . In the process, the researcher triangulates the quantitative and qualitative data .

“Someone once told me that mixed methods is one plus one equals to three, so there is quant and qual then you get mixed methods. So it involves a lot of vigour, the validity of your findings is enhanced and that is my area of endevour, that’s where I will be doing the inaugural lecture”. He guides.

In essence, the Inaugural lecture is aimed to raise debate whether mixed methods is a separate paradigm of research. Some scholars like Prof. Ayiro are convinced both that the ontology and epistemology of that method can be substantiated and so , making it a valid paradigm.

“In mixed methods research we are combining a singularity of thought and relating to perceptions about realities, so it is paradigm of research”. He explains. Further Prof. Ayiro says the aim of inaugural lecture is to show the world the strength of his understanding of mixed methods design or paradigm of thought.

He argues that there are a lot of exciting philosophical and methodological perspectives in research that he would like to see, particularly in Daystar , Kenya, Africa and globally. He will used an his inaugural lecture as an an entry point, and looks to inspire a crop of radical students excited with critical analysis research.

“I would like them to be grounded in advocacy in transformation research, they should have the ability to master courage to stretch beyond qualitative methods . An inaugural lecture by its very nature is academic, so that is the day you get the best brains to listen to you” .

Prof. Ayiro is inviting his mentors, peers and prominent researchers such as Louis Crouch of Response to Intervention (RTI ) and Bill Gates Foundation , as well as Prof. John Creswell – Michigan State University, a prominent scholar on research methods with world class presence.

“ I will engage colleagues we have worked with from the University of Texas A & M, Cape Town and Nelson Mandela Universities, my own Alumna Mater, Kenyatta University. We will try to make it intellectually expansive so that it serves the true purpose of the inaugural lecture”.

The national and global eminent academic guests are expected to be present physically, or virtually for the inaugural lecture to give rejoining discourse and contribute in thought and discourse.

The academic venture will be used to interest students especially those taking post- graduate studies as a motivation to grow academically .

“ I walked into a University that was marginalised in terms of research output, so my biggest agenda is to radicalize the area of research to adopt methods that can help overcome that marginalization”. He says of his experience at Daystar University.

Recently, Prof. Ayiro became a champion for the Daystar-led Inter-University Graduate Studies Forum (IGSF) online remedial trainings in research methodologies, where he continues to virtually mentor over 1000 students from Universities across Africa, Asia, Europe, and America.

“Already in the inter-university forum for masters and PhD, we are pursuing as a University, the number of research consortium that we are getting into, that is what I would like to see. Because really, we must push academic into practice and research is the bridge”. He shares.

Transforming Classroom Lectures to Influence Society

He encourages the academic community that if they have to translate what they offer in lecture halls into society and make a difference then, the bridge is research. He is hopeful that the focus on research will attract funding and collaborations to enrich the academic community. The objective is to transform higher education into a world class space for innovation,problem solving and community cohesion.

Prof. Ayiro great interest in research is seen in his future vision . “ Iam hoping I can get away from the mundane things of running a University and pay roll issues and unions and the demand of workers so that I can get into publishing .

Prof. Ayiro has a record of accomplishment in research and publication with over thirty publications including books, book chapters, articles in peer reviewed journals, media publications, and appearances.

“ I want these publications to go through the rigors so that I can set pace not just for my students but also faculty. For example, the book on Research Methods is very significant to me. It is published in the US , but bringing down here will cost my students Ksh 12, 000, so that is not useful.” . He states.

His most recent book: A functional Approach to Educational Research Methods was published in 2018 by the Kenya Literature Bureau. He is currently working on a series of books with topical themes in leadership and research methods that are set to hit the press this year.