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Is Makerere still on the right track?

By Vision Reporter

Added 26th August 2005 03:00 AM

I must stress that the remarks I makeI are not meant to prejudice investigations or inquiry by the Inspectorate of Government, but might provide some insight.

I must stress that the remarks I makeI are not meant to prejudice investigations or inquiry by the Inspectorate of Government, but might provide some insight.

Moses Khisa

I must stress that the remarks I makeI are not meant to prejudice investigations or inquiry by the Inspectorate of Government, but might provide some insight.

On July 10, 2005, the New Vision ran an article of an ‘undercover journalist’ who allegedly beat the exam-invigilation system in Makerere University and sat for two examinations.

Professor Apolo Nsibambi, the chancellor rather hastily called for an inquiry in a manner that suggested he believed the contents of the article. After a meeting with other university officials, the vice-chancellor professor Livingstone Luboobi, gave a strongly worded rebuttal threatening legal action against the New Vision if the newspaper did not apologise.

To go on the defensive is tantamount to running away from, and postponing the problem. Examination malpractices cannot be ruled out in a university like Makerere, more so in a country like Uganda, where moral degeneration is the norm. The university has undergone intense and wide spread structural or institutional reforms so much so that negative concomitant are inevitable. In fact, some of the reforms and changes have been very haphazard.

However, that is not to say the good vice chancellor should not have countered the specific allegations in the article, some of which seemed to be a motley of exaggerated falsehoods and half-truths.
Assuming the undercover journalist beat his way to illegally sit for two examinations, should that be interpreted as the rule or the exception?

Is it not too simplistic to use that premise to conclude that one can actually get a degree from Makerere University without sitting the necessary examinations? Is there any system without loopholes easily exploited by errant and deviant characters?

There have been reports that some people actually have university degree transcripts made from some secretarial bureaus in town, and so one might not have to waste time hiring mercenaries to do examinations in Makerere.

Having invigilated examinations at the University in the capacity of a graduate student, the rules as spelt out on each answer booklet are very stringent such that invigilators have to use their discretion in specific cases, lest many candidates get disqualified. And that is exactly what is most likely to happen. In light of the New Vision article, invigilators will henceforth follow the rules to the letter.

Though the university authorities have been dismissing unscrupulous students implicated in examination malpractices, many get away with certain wrongs which often inadvertently result from omissions and errors that go with examination pressure, the New Vision article opened a Pandora’s box and prospective students will suffer consequences of invigilators sticking to examination rules without any compromises. Most students pay fees at the 11th hour and appear for exams with receipts rather than a valid identity card because they could not get one in time. There are also problems of losing identity cards and not getting a replacement in time due to the bureaucracy among other reasons.

Away from the subject of examination malpractices, there are some very significant issues that need to be put into perspective, key among which are what has been characterised as ‘vocationalisation of university education under the guise of professionalisation.’

The university received a population explosion in the aftermath of government policy of privatisation and liberalisation under the tutelage (or is it patronage) of the IMF and the World Bank. With overwhelming increase in demand for higher education, but also tied to and intertwined with the notion of ‘one of the best universities in Africa,’ Makerere has created various degree programmes with considerable duplication.

The scramble to capture private students and bring in more revenue has been widespread among the different units of the university.

There has been a disagreement among dons over the traditional research oriented type of university education geared towards knowledge generation, on the one hand, and the market focused one whose proponents argue seeks to answer the needs of society by imparting some professional and practical skills but some of whose critics refer to as ‘vocationalisation.’

There is the assertion that a university like Makerere should focus on research and knowledge production, in which case, it will create and shape the market for graduates and not vice-versa. This argument leaves one spoilt for choice as each one of them has a valid point, and the ball swings into the court of the university administration and the planning department to harmonise the two positions.

It is also important to note that the confusion surrounding the start of the academic year calls for serious planning and building capacity to manage crises at the university.

The writer is a Political Scientist and Human Rights scholar at Makerere University

Is Makerere still on the right track?

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