By Chris Kiwawulo
Public universities face probe
When Government called for applications for admission under the district quota like all the other districts, hundreds of students system from Lyantonde district applied.
Incidentally, many of the eligible applicants were left out and instead three persons; David Mutahunga, Abel Kalega and Rebecca Nakato, who sat their A’level examinations in 2011 at St. Gonzaga Secondary School Kijjukizo in Lyantonde town council were admitted.
Many applicants who knew the three protested to the district authorities in vain.
They then petitioned the Inspector General of Government (IGG), Justice Irene Mulyagonja, who instituted an investigation into the matter.
In a December 13, 2012 letter, Mulyagonja revealed that the three had forged documents to get admitted to Makerere and Kyambogo universities on government sponsorship under the district quota system for Lyantonde.
The IGG discovered that the three were from Bushenyi and not Lyantonde, and she instructed the Public Universities Joint Admission Board (PUJAB) to revoke their admission. The trio who lied about their birth place, which contravenes the admission regulations, were among the six students admitted for Lyantonde from 30 applicants..
To be admitted on the quota system, you must have sat Senior Six examinations in the district you were born in.
Of the 4,000 slots available for Governmentsponsorship every year, 75% are competed for nationally on merit, mainly for science programmes identifi ed as critical for national development.
Of the remaining 25%, 40 slots are for talented sports men and women, 64 for students with disabilities while 896 slots are competed for through the district quota scheme.
Under the scheme, each district is allocated between five to 10 slots for their best performing students, with preference given to candidates who sat A’ level exams at schools located in their home districts.
The prospective applicants must have their forms authenticated by local council one (LC I) and LCII chairpersons.
However, there are reports of many cases of forgery by students trying to join universities.
Investigations show that in some cases, fraud in admissions is also carried out in cahoots with officials charged with compiling the public university admission lists.
“Under quota admissions, unscrupulous students reportedly forge documents and opt for remote districts, which have few or no students with two principal passes to qualify for the quota scheme,” a source stated. This is because public universities have a massive competition for entrants, compared to private ones.
Reliable sources at Makerere, Mbarara, Kyambogo and Gulu universities revealed that there have been complaints where applicants with higher cut-off points are left out and those with lower grades are admitted on government sponsorship.
Mwalimu has established that Makerere University
has had the highest number of cases in the last five years, which range from district quota admissions to direct admissions.
The university has on many occasions warned students against unscrupulous persons who forge admission letters.
More than 100 students admitted in the 2006/2007 academic year at Makerere were discontinued because they came from the wrong districts. In 2008, over 300 students were disqualified from the quota scheme over forgeries.
After complaints from several people including politicians in Dokolo, PUJAB investigated the matter and indeed found out that some of the beneficiaries were wrongly admitted and they were dropped off the list.
Dokolo county MP Felix Okot Ogong said some people had smuggled names of ineligible students on the list. This case too was forwarded to the IGG and the list was cancelled.
Education minister Jessica Alupo confi rmed she had received many cases of fraud in the admissions process.
“But what I usually tell the people is to put their complaints in writing so that I query it quickly,” she stated.
On why the ministry does not crack the whip on the culprits, Alupo said she has many times tasked the ministry’s technical team to investigate the matter and bring the culprits to book; but she is yet to get a response.
As a short-term measure, she said, her ministry was handling the issue on a case by case basis. As a long- term measure, she said the ministry was planning a comprehensive investigation into the matter with a view to bringing the culprits to book.
In this year’s admissions (2013/2014), irregularities were also cited in the law course where applicants had to sit for pre-entry examinations at Makerere University
Mwalimu has established that several applicants, who passed pre-entry examinations for the law course and had obtained the required cut-off points, making them eligible for admission got shocked when they found out that their names were missing on the admission list.
Investigations have also revealed that some students who applied for the law course on private sponsorship using a bachelor’s degree were admitted under the diploma holders’ scheme yet several eligible diploma holders were left out.
The mix-up has forced many students, who qualified for admission
under the diploma scheme, but missed out, to appeal to the university academic registrar over the matter.
This is not the first time applicants have complained of being denied admission, yet they qualify. Sources said about 30 students, who had passed pre-entry examination and had the required cut-off points but had not been admitted threatened to sue the university and they were later reconsidered.
Scholarship application process
To be considered for admission under Government sponsorship to university and tertiary institutions, Senior Six candidates ought to fill the PUJAB application forms.
The Public Universities Joint Admission Board, PUJAB forms cost sh22,000 each and are used to collect information on applicants.
The information is later processed on a computer to sort out the best candidates for admission.
Programmes which have slots on national merit admit a few, sometimes none, through the district quota scheme
. Thus, candidates eyeing the district quota are advised to apply for programmes, which are not available for national merit.
Penalties for admission fraudsters Makerere University
assistant registrar for undergraduate admissions, Charles Ssentongo, says that providing false information to get admitted through the district quota scheme always leads to cancellation of admission.
However, if the fraud is not detected and the student is admitted on the basis of false information, especially regarding their district of origin, the university can dismiss him at any point the fraud is discovered.
Indeed, nine of the 11 students who had been admitted on the quota scheme from Nakaseke district in 2006 were discontinued after it was established that this was not their home district.
If the student is admitted and the problem is not discovered during the course of his studies, Ssentongo says universities also have the right to revoke any award, whether degree or diploma, at any point after the student has graduated.
“Providing false information also attracts prosecution in the courts of law whenever discovered,” he adds.
Makerere university officials react
When contacted over the allegations the Makerere University
academic registrar, Alfred Namoah, declined to comment.
However, an offi cial in his offi ce who did not want to be named confi rmed that they had received appeals from some applicants.
“We shall review the appeals and if an applicant is found to be below the cut-off points, they cannot be taken. But if someone is above the cut-off points and also passed the pre-entry test, that means that they were erroneously left out, and they will be re-considered,” he stated.
He explained that degree holders who applied for the course were included on the list of the diploma scheme because they are categorised under the same quota, which constitutes 10% of the total undergraduate admissions.
“The quota also includes mature age applicants,” the source in Makerere’s academic registrar explained.
Prof. Ddumba Ssentamu, the university’s vice-chancellor said he had not yet received the complaints but he could not rule out the problem.
“We entertain such complaints. If they are there, let them come to my office and we help them,” he said.
How can we avoid fraud in government universities?
The challenge is normally with the entry of data, which is done by human beings.
He said it would be better and of much help if the system is automated such that data is automatically assembled using the agreed upon parameters by UNEB after the marking of the examinations.
“The issue has to do with people who manually participate in documentation of data yet this comes with a number of temptations like bribery,” he says.
Prof. Nyeko Pen-Mogi Gulu University vice-chancellor
The quota system has been abused to the extent that some students present letters seconding them purportedly from State House.
Students come with letters bearing State House letterheads.
If they are not forging them, then some workers in State House who have access to them are the ones issuing them.
Everybody seems to have access to power.
To solve this, schools upcountry should be improved so that the district quota system is scrapped.
Prof. Eric Edroma Former vice-chancellor, University of East Africa
A mechanism should be worked out whereby the academic documents of the admitted students are verified to ascertain their authenticity.
Besides, the system should go beyond academic documents, to also critically analyse the economic background of the student being admitted.
It has been found that the system predominantly favours students from well-off families, contrary to the intended beneficiaries (those from humble families).
Additional reporting by Francis Kagolo, Job Bwire and Shamim Saad