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Identity card project could solve Makerere problems

By Vision Reporter

Added 17th July 2005 03:00 AM

ENRAGED members of Parliament on June 21 demanded that Makerere University sets up a taskforce to investigate persistent delays in the issuance of academic transcripts.

ENRAGED members of Parliament on June 21 demanded that Makerere University sets up a taskforce to investigate persistent delays in the issuance of academic transcripts.

By Carol Natukunda
ENRAGED members of Parliament on June 21 demanded that Makerere University sets up a taskforce to investigate persistent delays in the issuance of academic transcripts.
Despite the 83-year-old university embarking on a multi-million dollar computerisation programme five years ago, most transactions at the university are still manually done.
At the programme onset, the University created a fully-fledged Directorate of Information and Communication Technology Support (DICTS) to speed up the computerisation process in critical areas like the processing of transcripts and examinations results. But the students might have to wait a little bit longer to benefit from the computerisation programme.
Instead of addressing the critical areas, the university gave priority to the introduction of ‘computerised identity cards (IDs) without the accompanying infrastructure to operationalise them.
“We expected the basic infrastructure to have been put in place before introducing these IDs. But it was the other way round. The students have paid dearly for these IDs, yet they cannot use them for the purposes for which they were meant,” said a university official.
Sources said DICTS did not take part in setting up the computerised ID project, launched in July 2004. Instead, the university contracted Computer Point Limited, a private ICT provider, to implement the project at undisclosed sum.
Private students pay sh11,200 for the new cards as opposed to sh4,000 for the Polaroid IDs currently being phased out.
With the university student population at over 30,000, it means the ‘investors’ will initially garner about sh330m. However, sources say the ID project, the first of its kind in the African Great Lakes Region, cost the university close to sh1b.
Nicholas Rwendeire of the Computer Point Limited defended their four-year contract saying the project would reduce costs for both the university and the student in the long run.
He says where a student was supposed to pay for the library cards and a separate ID, one would just have to meet the cost of one smart ID card.
“This is a smart card that supports maximum functions. Given the ICT infrastructure in place, it can be used for automation services like access control into lecture rooms, library use, printing and photocopying services and as a credit card,” he says adding that a student could also be able to access his or her exam results anytime.
Hellen Kaweesa, the university spokesperson, however, said the complex trend towards management was part of the reasons they introduced the project.
She said the new IDs were necessary to check on counterfeit identity cards and other university documents.
“It may have been easier for anyone to produce a fake ID or transcript, but not any more, with a new computerised system,” she says.
Kaweesa says the entire new computerised system will be interconnected with the various activities of registration and tuition fees payment.
“This will ease the whole process of student registration and tuition payment. For instance, when you present your card, all the student details that we need would show,” she says.
This, Kaweesa argues, would quicken the process of administration and management where a student’s records are concerned.
This would imply that banking, central registration, or even getting a transcript would be a lot easier and faster, as opposed to doing the job by hand. But since July 2004, the situation on the ground has not changed. Some university officials and students said all the hardware should have been in place before introducing the cards.
“My problem is to make the students pay for these IDs today when their real need may be in five years’ time even after some of them have left. What is the rationale of introducing the IDs before installing the necessary infrastructure?” asked a lecturer, who requested anonymity.
“It might be a little longer before the university can fully start using the computerised system,” an official said.
“The university is still processing students data manually, making the production of most academic papers and other reports prone to error,” he said.
The examination results for a previous semester take almost one to two months before they can be released because a particular department has to manually transfer them to the respective faculty deans who will then forward them to the senate building.

The graduates, who initially were the priority to be issued with the new cards, so that they could be cleared faster, are only meeting bureaucracy, which supposedly, should have ended with the introduction of the computerised system.
Clearing with the university for instance, takes two to three days since a student has to move from a respective faculty, to the main library, guild offices, the University Hospital and the university police among others.
Getting a transcript takes more than a month because one has to first apply for it and then keep on checking whether it has been forwarded.
Although one is required to present his or her ID for identification purposes, a student would still have to wait for the attendant to check through a heap of transcripts looking for just one particular file.
Ends

Identity card project could solve Makerere problems

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