Makerere Univeristy, the oldest and most respected institution of higher learning in East Africa for years, is threatening to recall and cancel degrees in a a bid to restore integrity and confidence in the papers that bear its seal.
The move follows an internal investigation the university set up following complaints that the quality of its products were wanting.
The reverberations of this radical step are far reaching.
Makerere has over the years attracted students from within East Africa and beyond. Many have grown to occupy important offices in corporate boardrooms or policy making echelons of the political high ranks. So, it can only be imaginable how deep the shivers of the announcement go.
And yet, Makerere’s move appears to be the appropriate shock therapy tertiary education needs in the face of rampant accusations of forgery and other scandals that have frequently sprung up in the recent past. In Tanzania, a number of universities face de-registration over quality concerns.
Rapid expansion has brought with it a challenges especially on quality.
With large numbers of eager students willing to pay any price to land a coveted university degree certificate to access the increasingly scarce job opportunities students, administrators, clerks and lectures have become innovative doctoring results where they cannot forge the certificate outright.
In 2016, the National Council for Higher Education revoked the licence of Busoga University after it graduated over 1,000 students who had not attended lectures and gained the necessary grade points to earn the degrees.
In Kenya, a man masquerading as a medical doctor was jailed after it was discovered that he had used forgery and manipulation not only to gain academic papers but also a government posting.
So Makerere’s move, radical as it may be, could not have been more timely especially at a time when the region is grappling with how to standardise and harmonise academic qualifications to improve quality and integrity.
Each passing day, East Africans are pulling closer together, institutional policy initiatives are knocking down one barrier after another. Access to jobs and education across borders is increasingly becoming a daily reality meaning that a minimum demand for each member state to guard against questionable quality of its academic outputs is not an unreasonable expectation of employers and the peoples of the region.
Restoration of integrity in the education qualifications produced by our universities is critical in this fast globalising world and none of the countries should allow or encourage fraudulent individuals to sneak across the border to obtain academic papers.
Authorities, employers and parents in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan and Burundi need to support Makerere’s initiative to weed out undesirable holders of its academic papers.
Quality and reliable education should be the cornerstone of the region’s drive to global competitiveness as any tolerance of mediocrity and deceit can only reap disaster for the region.