A secondary school teacher who secretly got his degree certificate from a local university without clearing his fees will not be compensated after his salary was stopped when his certificate was nullified.
Mutimba Joseph had sued Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (Mmust) after the latter cancelled his Bachelor of Education (Arts) degree which prompted the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) to suspend him and stop his salary.
At the heart of the case was a pending fee balance amounting to Sh198,800 which the teacher owed the university by the time he graduated on December 6, 2013.
High Court judge William Musyoka said the learning institution violated Mutimba's rights under Article 28 of the Constitution, but declined to award him damages on grounds that he failed to explain how the document came into his possession.
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“The petitioner (Mutimba) has not come clean on how he gained possession of the certificate after it disappeared from the custody of the respondent (Mmust),” the judge said in a decision delivered on October 16 this year.
Justice Musyoka added that it was improper for the university to have accused Mutimba of financial fraud in the absence of a conviction. He also noted that it was also unfair for Mmust to write to his employer alleging that the certificate he had used when he sought employment was fake, given that Mutimba had passed all his examinations and graduated.
The teacher claimed he received a letter from the university in May 2019 cancelling his degree certificate. The court was told that he was employed by TSC in November 2016 but things changed when he failed to get his salary.
On inquiring from TSC, he was informed that the money had been stopped following a communication from the university that he had failed to clear his fees.
The university had published his name alongside others who had fee balances, warning that their degrees had been withdrawn.
The court said TSC made it clear that a reprint of the same certificate with a new serial number would not resolve the matter, since Mutimba had been employed on the basis of the old certificate. He needs a new degree certificate with a fresh serial number if he is to get back his job.
Mutimba's legal battle with Mmust started after the institution failed to reinstate the degree. He filed a suit at the Employment and Labour Relations Court and in March 2019, an order was issued barring TSC from withholding his salary.
Despite that order, TSC did not pay his salary. In October 2019, the court found that Mutimba had met all academic requirements and had graduated, but declined to grant orders sought in the case because of the fee arrears claim.
He engaged the university on how to settle the fees, but Mmust offered to reprint the old document. Mutimba told the court that reprinting the degree would not help since TSC was demanding a fresh document.
He then filed an application before the High Court, challenging Mmust's decision to reprint. In its response, the university said Mutimba had difficulty paying fees, and often sought late registration of examinations.
The court was told he completed his studies and his name was erroneously included in the graduation list without the clearance of fees.
Although the petitioner was allowed to graduate, by error, the university opted not to release his degree certificate until he paid all the fees.
Sometime in June 2015, the institution discovered that Mutimba's degree certificate was missing. The matter was reported to the police and Mmust resolved to cancel the missing documents. It is asserted that he obtained employment with TSC using a degree certificate stolen from the university.