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Fresh shocking details of rot in universities

By Augustine Oduor | Published Sat, February 25th 2017 at 00:00, Updated February 24th 2017 at 23:28 GMT +3
Commission for University Education secretary Prof David Some. (Photo: Tabitha Otwori/Standard)

Shocking details of the extent of rot in Kenya’s higher education can be revealed today.

The Standard on Saturday has seen the finer details of the universities quality audit report that were not made public for fear of denting the image of local universities.

A look at the confidential report reveals that universities are facing serious management challenges that have given room for admission flaws, inadequate staffing, poor examination administration and supervision and research.

It has emerged that some universities do not even have proper examination administration and supervision frameworks.

Some do not even meet the minimum teaching hours, with lecturers carrying lighter workloads.

Commission for University Education (CUE) secretary Prof David Some said Friday that the extreme cases were discussed in closed-door meetings with the universities.

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“Each university was given their own specific report and they were to study and make factual corrections. There is no other report that was given,” said Prof Some.

And most shocking is the revelation that some institutions mount unaccredited programmes, admit students and even graduate them.

And on staff establishment, inability to comply with the ethnic composition in employment and the revelation that in some universities junior lecturers teach higher classes, is shocking.

Within months

But what should worry Kenyans most is how some universities graduate students within months and cut corners to admit many more to shore up their numbers to seal budgetary gaps.

Scholars who spoke Friday said the shortcut mentality practiced at the institutions of higher learning will sink the moral fabric of the nation.

Prof Ben Sihanya, a constitutional scholar at the University of Nairobi, said problems facing the sector must be fixed urgently.

“As we speak, to gain admission to a university in the UK you must sit a pre-university course for one year either locally or there. And if this rot persists it will be difficult for Kenyan papers to be accepted,” he said.

Prof Sihanya said the expansion of universities from the traditional seven to the current big number also cost the sector an opportunity for quality progression. “Was there adequate financial and human resources development? Not. We simply expanded and enrolled students. It has been a paper chase business,” said Prof Sihanya.

He said the state has put more emphasis on elevating and granting charters and increasing enrollment to improving transition to universities.

“We have not seen a deliberate effort on the side of the government to improve on quality,” he said.

Speaking Friday, Prof Sihanya said the problem is not lack of laws. “We have many good laws and policies. The question has been implementation and the goodwill to provide quality education to the younger generation,” he said.

Prof Chege Mungai, an education consultant, said findings of the audit report are a pointer to a collapsing sector. He said the demand for higher education has pushed universities and students to devise unethical ways of gaining papers.

“How can someone get an executive Masters and use those papers to enroll for a PhD and after that, demand to be a senior lecturer? It is immoral,” said Prof Chege.

He said despite the rising demand on higher education, the methods and modes of delivery have not been improved.

“The universities have continued to ignore policies and rules and the managements have commercialised the sector. This is the problem and many things have gone wrong,” he said.

Prof Chege added: “And that is why they must respond to the issues raised and explain how they will address the challenges.” Commission for University Education chairperson Chacha Nyaigotti-Chacha and secretary Prof David Some announced last week that all universities have been given 30 days to state how they intend to correct the messes in their respective stations.

“All universities have been given their individual reports and are required to respond with any corrections of factual errors and to provide, to the Commission, a road map on corrective measures within 30 days,” said Prof Some. The two officials also announced that a joint working group – council chairs, comprising chancellors, and vice chancellors – has been constituted to monitor the progress of the implementation of the recommendations of the audit report. The Standard on Saturday established that the seven days that the universities were given to make factual corrections lapses Friday.

“They have been coming whole day to return their reports,” said a source at the CUE.

After returning their reports with factual corrections done, the institutions will now have 30 days to issue corrective roadmap.

For legal reasons, we could not name the universities.