Mak­erere’s move a blow for qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion

The East African - - OPINION -

MAK­ERERE UNIVER­SITY, the old­est and most re­spected In­sti­tu­tion of higher learn­ing in East Africa for years, is threat­en­ing to re­call and can­cel de­grees in a a bid to re­store in­tegrity and con­fi­dence in the pa­pers that bear its seal.

The move fol­lows an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion the univer­sity set up fol­low­ing com­plaints that the qual­ity of its prod­ucts were want­ing.

The re­ver­ber­a­tions of this rad­i­cal step are far reach­ing. Mak­erere has over the years at­tracted stu­dents from within East Africa and be­yond. Many have grown to oc­cupy im­por­tant of­fices in cor­po­rate board­rooms or pol­icy mak­ing ech­e­lons of the po­lit­i­cal high ranks. So, it can only be imag­in­able how deep the shiv­ers of the an­nounce­ment go.

And yet, Mak­erere’s move ap­pears to be the ap­pro­pri­ate shock ther­apy ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion needs in the face of ram­pant ac­cu­sa­tions of forgery and other scan­dals that have fre­quently sprung up in the re­cent past. In Tan­za­nia, a num­ber of uni­ver­si­ties face dereg­is­tra­tion over qual­ity con­cerns.

Rapid ex­pan­sion has brought with it a chal­lenges es­pe­cially on qual­ity. With large num­bers of ea­ger stu­dents will­ing to pay any price to land a cov­eted univer­sity de­gree cer­tifi­cate to ac­cess the in­creas­ingly scarce job op­por­tu­ni­ties stu­dents, ad­min­is­tra­tors, clerks and lec­tures have be­come in­no­va­tive doc­tor­ing re­sults where they can­not forge the cer­tifi­cate out­right.

In 2016, the Na­tional Coun­cil for Higher Ed­u­ca­tion re­voked the li­cence of Bu­soga Univer­sity after it grad­u­ated over 1,000 stu­dents who had not at­tended lec­tures and gained the nec­es­sary grade points to earn the de­grees. In Kenya, a man mas­querad­ing as a med­i­cal doc­tor was jailed after it was dis­cov­ered that he had used forgery and ma­nip­u­la­tion not only to gain aca­demic pa­pers but also a gov­ern­ment post­ing.

So Mak­erere’s move, rad­i­cal as it may be, could not have been more timely es­pe­cially at a time when the re­gion is grap­pling with how to stan­dard­ise and har­monise aca­demic qual­i­fi­ca­tions to im­prove qual­ity and in­tegrity.

Each pass­ing day, East Africans are pulling closer to­gether, in­sti­tu­tional pol­icy ini­tia­tives are knock­ing down one bar­rier after an­other. Ac­cess to jobs and ed­u­ca­tion across bor­ders is in­creas­ingly be­com­ing a daily re­al­ity mean­ing that a min­i­mum de­mand for each mem­ber state to guard against ques­tion­able qual­ity of its aca­demic out­puts is not an un­rea­son­able ex­pec­ta­tion of em­ploy­ers and the peo­ples of the re­gion.

Restora­tion of in­tegrity in the ed­u­ca­tion qual­i­fi­ca­tions pro­duced by our uni­ver­si­ties is crit­i­cal in this fast glob­al­is­ing world and none of the coun­tries should al­low or en­cour­age fraud­u­lent in­di­vid­u­als to sneak across the bor­der to ob­tain aca­demic pa­pers.

Author­i­ties, em­ploy­ers and par­ents in Kenya, Tan­za­nia, Rwanda, South Su­dan and Bu­rundi need to sup­port Mak­erere’s ini­tia­tive to weed out un­de­sir­able hold­ers of its aca­demic pa­pers.

Qual­ity and re­li­able ed­u­ca­tion should be the cor­ner­stone of the re­gion’s drive to global com­pet­i­tive­ness as any tol­er­ance of medi­ocrity and deceit can only reap dis­as­ter for the re­gion.

It is not the di­vide be­tween au­thor­i­tar­ian vs demo­cratic that helps pre­dict th­ese user in­for­ma­tion re­quests, but po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence.

It also spot­lights re­quests to mo­bile phone op­er­a­tors for sub­scriber in­for­ma­tion and data – you know, text mes­sages, and other naughty and sub­ver­sive ma­te­rial on your de­vices.

African coun­tries don’t come anywhere near western na­tions like the US, which makes tens of thou­sands of re­quests a year.

It is mostly still small beer. It is the

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