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National placement agency takes over KMTC student admission after nine-year battle

Education
 Kenya Medical Training College Training Administration Block. [Samson Wire, Standard]

After nearly 10 years of turf wars and sibling rivalry between two government ministries, marked with a heightened sense of self-importance and court battles, the placement row of medical students to certificate and diploma colleges has been resolved.

All students wishing to pursue medical courses in any of the Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) institutions can now apply through the national central placement agency.

Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) chief executive, Dr. Mercy Wahome, said the portal opened on July 22, 2023.

The deadline for the applications is August 4, 2023.

"This is a milestone because KMTC and KUCCPS have a common objective of enhancing access to quality higher education and training opportunities in a manner that is equitable to all Kenyans," said Dr. Wahome.

There are 30 KMTC programmes available for application.

The programmes offered at diploma and certificate levels include community health nursing, mental health and psychiatry, midwifery, radiography and imaging, medical laboratory sciences, occupational therapy, optometry, pharmacy, physiotherapy, and public health, among others.

Dr. Wahome said providing the KMTC courses on the KUCCPS platform will ensure equity, fairness, and balanced access to the training opportunities.

She said the application targets individuals who completed the KCSE examination from the year 2013 to 2022.

The decision by KUCCPS brings to an end the nearly decade-old fight over whose mandate it was to place the students in the various KMTCs spread across the country.

The matter that pitted officials at the Ministry of Education against those of Health was the subject of sharp division in Parliament, as MPs differed on the floor regarding whose mandate it was to place the students in the colleges.

Legal battle

The matter also found its way into the courts of law as two government agencies – Kenya University and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) and the KMTC – wrestled through their lawyers just to secure the mandate.

In the end, KMTC won the court case, taking away the mandate that KUCCPS claimed was handed to it by the Universities Act of 2012.

As the row raged on, in 2015, KUCCPS said Section 55 of the Universities Act establishes a single placement board that is mandated to coordinate the placement of students to universities and colleges.

In terse correspondence between KMTC and KUCCPS, the leadership of the two institutions stretched their muscles to take back what each believed was their own.

Admission queries

The then KMTC director, Olango Onudi, in a letter dated March 24, 2015, cited Section 6 of the KMTC Act on admission, which states: "Admission to the College as candidates for diplomas, certificates, or other awards shall be open to all persons accepted as being qualified by the Academic Board..."

Onudi said the institutions would continue with their own admissions.

"I wish to inform you that the KMTC Board of Management's position on this matter is that the selection of students for the programs offered by KMTC is the mandate of the College Academic Board, as stipulated in the KMTC Act...," reads the letter Onudi sent to then KUCCPS chief executive, John Muraguri.

"I wish to inform you that the KMTC Board of Management's position on this matter is that the selection of students for the programs offered by KMTC is the mandate of the College Academic Board, as stipulated in the KMTC Act. Therefore, we are not in a position to furnish you with the information required," he said in a letter dated March 24, 2015. Onudi further reiterated this stance in a letter also dated March 24, 2015.

In the end, Onundi stated that KMTC had withdrawn from the national joint admissions body tasked with the responsibility of placing students in both universities and colleges.

"KUCCPS can handle their admissions, and we shall also manage ours. We will advertise, as our Act has not been repealed, and nobody has instructed us not to admit," Onudi told journalists.

In April 2015, as admissions were delayed due to the fights, the Kenya Association of Technical Training Institutions (KATTI) weighed in.

The then KATTI chairman, Edwin Tarno, stated that admissions to KMTC had always been unfair and favored financially able candidates.

"Ask anybody, and they will tell you how imbalanced those admissions have been. It was only last year when placement was done by KUCCPS that even students in Turkana were admitted," Tarno said.

Established in law

Tarno cited Section 52 of the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Act, which states: "Admission of students into technical and vocational education institutions shall be conducted by the Service established under the law relating to universities."

He said the Universities Act 2012 and the Tivet Act 2012 have superseded the law cited by Onudi.

"According to the law, all colleges and universities must have their students placed by KUCCPS. Unless KMTC is offering a different qualification, they must comply," Tarno said.

The correspondence between KMTC and KUCCPS sparked a confrontation that also involved the Health and Education ministries officials.

The contest played out in Parliament when Education ministry officials appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Health in September 2014.

Basic Education PS Bellio Kipsang and Muraguri represented the Ministry of Education in the closed-door committee meeting.

An MP who attended the meeting said, "We shall amend this law to kick out the new agency because it is not within their mandate to place students in these colleges."

After emerging from the meeting, PS Kipsang stated, "It was a normal 'housekeeping business,'" as he downplayed the heat generated by the MPs.

Direct interest

However, sources familiar with the situation then revealed that some MPs had a direct interest in the colleges, having entered into partnerships with the KMTCs.

"Some of them (MPs) agreed to build campuses for KMTC, and they were to be given 30 per cent of the slots to benefit their constituents. However, you see, KUCCPS works on merit and does not recognize this kind of arrangement," said a Ministry of Education official who attended the MPs' meeting.

The following year, in 2015, the fate of KMTC student admissions appeared to be sealed after the then Health Cabinet Secretary, James Macharia, backed the college's move.

Macharia stated that KMTC had the right to advertise and admit their students. "There should be no controversy; KMTC has the legal right and mandate to do the placement," Macharia said.

However, KUCCPS went ahead and placed 2,305 students in KMTC colleges even as the dispute over the process raged on. Despite this, KMTC disowned the students.

Amidst the standoff, two students, David Mburu Mwangi and Anthony Thuita Mwai, obtained temporary orders from the High Court in Nakuru, which barred any new admissions at the KMTCs.

The medical college's decision to disown students admitted through KUCCPS prompted legal action. The High Court intervened and halted the admissions until a case filed by KUCCPS was fully determined.

KUCCPS, represented by senior counsel Prof Tom Ojienda, also moved to court and argued that the admissions were illegal. Ojienda asserted that KUCCPS possessed exclusive powers to place students in all colleges.

"The applicants are allowed to challenge the decision of KMTC to admit the students, and pending the determination of the suit, an order of prohibition is issued, stopping KMTC from admitting any of the selected students," ruled Justice Joseph Onguto in September 2015.

In October 2015, Attorney General Githu Muigai instructed that all students be admitted.

Muigai also ordered that all the cases in court be withdrawn, and an administrative solution be sought to end the stalemate between KUCCPS and KMTC.

The decision followed a meeting attended by Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi, Health CS James Macharia, as well as representatives from KUCCPS and KMTC management.

The meeting was a directive by the Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua, to push for the resolution of the matter.

KMTC and the KUCCPS were directed to harmonize the two admission lists to facilitate admissions.

KMTC continued to place and admit students to various colleges.

Stalemate

However, in April 2016, while appearing before the House Education Committee, Muraguri said the stalemate had not been resolved.

This was occurring many months after the high-level meeting between CSs Kaimenyi and Macharia, which was intervened by the Head of Public Service.

"The matter has not been resolved. We went for a judicial review, but before the determination of the case, we were asked – by the Attorney General and Head of Public Service – to withdraw the matter from court," said Muraguri.

Muraguri informed the MPs that KUCCPS was assured of an internal solution to the stalemate, a matter that is yet to be communicated.

The then deputy chairperson of the education committee, Julius Melly, stated that the amendment to the Universities Act would ensure that only KUCCPS has the mandate to place students.

"KMTC is operating under some funny law, but after the amendments, we shall safeguard and ensure no other entity can place students in all colleges other than KMTC," Melly said.

Muraguri, however, stated that there is a clear difference between the placement of students and admissions.

"Placement is for government-sponsored students, and it shall only be done by KUCCPS. Institutions then admit the placed students. The function of KUCCPS is placement. As long as these students are under government sponsorship, they must be placed by KUCCPS," Muraguri said.

Pulled out

Eventually, KUCCPS pulled out of the placement process of KMTC students.

In 2018, panic hit the KMTCs as reports emerged of slow enrollment numbers, prompting institutions' management to launch a recruitment drive to boost declining numbers.

This came two years after the KUCCPS pulled out of the admission process. Principals of the colleges have been advised to lobby students and parents to offer the available slots to potential qualified candidates.

There are 65 KMTC institutions across the country. Collectively, the colleges have a total capacity of about 8,000.

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