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Citizen Weekly

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Fear Kisii University churning academic dwarfs

Our Reporter

The quality of higher education in some of our public universities has been a subject of discussion by many educationists and scholars. Kisii University is on the spotlight over alleged academic malpractices.
But it is not only Kisii University on the radar, Kampala International University is also facing almost a similar problem. Interestingly Kampala and Kisii universities have three things in common.
One, they share the same acronym “KU”, secondly, they are part of the East African Community  and thirdly they have been accused of admitting students clandestinely to defeat the reputable academic progression in what is now being referred to as cleaning degrees.
Investigations reveal that after it is upgrading from a constituent college of Egerton University on February 6 2013, when it was awarded a Charter to become the 13th public university in Kenya, all has not been well in terms of management and academic excellence.
The college has been accused of poaching students from other institutions and helping them acquire certificates faster something that has put it on the radar of the Commission of University Education.
The same trend is crippling Moi University School of post-graduate studies where the poached students to the Eldoret campus of Kisii University are promised that they will graduate quickly.
When Kisii University crafted this unscrupulous academic injustice they established a campus in Eldoret and started poaching students from Moi University. Investigations now reveal that Moi University has been experiencing cashflow problems as a result of this malpractice.
Under the same academic injustice programme, they have been convincing students to leave Moi University and join Kisii University claiming it is superior to Moi University. It is alleged they had a hand in the recent strike of students at Moi University Law School.
Sources further divulge that they have also been luring lecturers to leave Moi University to Kisii University on condition that they will help poach students being promised higher scales. Those that agree with their schemes but decline to leave Moi University are also given part-time jobs. Another fact is that since Kisii University is a public university, no person can suspect the serious malpractices. This is like sometimes when some members of staff of Kenyatta University were caught selling degrees, they were all sacked. Kenyans therefore wait to see what action CUE will take on Kisii University.
Even as the university management under the leadership of Vice Chancellor John Akama claims that the university has a track record in terms of academics and management, Kisii University has been put on the spotlight for engaging in academic illegalities key among them poaching of post graduate students from other universities with the promise of easing them the burden of taking a long time to complete their studies.
We have gathered that upon poaching of the students with sweet deals. This to ensure they all pass exams during their stages of study.
Reports indicate that Kisii University had at one time attempted to suspend over 200 students for exam malpractices related cases but the case never went far as the students continued with their studies as if nothing had happened. Sources claim apart from the 200 cases, there are many other unreported cases that have substantially threatened the quality of the output from this institution.
It is claimed that upon its elevation, the institution offered certain courses without relevant facilities. With minimal funding from the government, many students end up doing courses theoretically hence missing the practical part that is indispensable in the job market, it is said.
The big question now is why the government tolerates goings-on at this university which threaten the future of the students they had poached from some of the reputable universities.
Scholars now argue that the ministry of Education has failed to act when it is its obligation to bring sanity to institutions of learning. It is astonishing that some of the institutions of higher learning are running unaccredited courses hence sabotaging dreams of young intellectuals.
If what is witnessed at Kisii University is not fought by the government through relevant education regulatory bodies like CUE by coming up with stringent measures, Kenya education system will be producing half-baked graduates who will not be accepted in the current competitive job market  here and abroad, a stakeholder said.
It is high time regulatory bodies, cases of examination malpractices were handled with the seriousness they deserve to the extent that institutions involved should not only expel students found guilty of examinations malpractices but also make their names public hence denying them another chance to be enrolled elsewhere.
Although CUE had gotten the wind on the ongoings at Kisii University, it has not taken  measures but only gave warnings that students engaging is such acts will have their degrees nullified when they will go to the commission for clearance.
The trend of cleaning of degrees at Kisii University did not start yesterday; it has been the order of the day, it is alleged. Cleaning degrees is the term used to refer quick acquisition of a degree with stronger grades for students who got weaker degrees like pass degree or lower second in their previous universities.
Kisii University is allegedly known to sweet talk students from other local universities as well as private universities who scored a pass and wanted to clean their certificates.
One of the students who spoke to us on strict condition of anonymity alleged how she was admitted to Kisii University to undertake the same course but for a shorter period of time with a guarantee that she would be given a stronger grade in this case a First Class or Second Class Upper division.
Last year, Kisii University hit national headlines during rampage by students when parliament accused the university’s administration of hiring outlawed ‘sungusungu’ group to beat the rioting students.
The students said their vice chancellor Prof Akama has failed to manage the institution and should be replaced immediately. They said the university management does not involve the student association in decision making.
During the strike, Akama was quoted saying: “Some of our rivals, whom I don’t want to mention are bankrolling the students’ leadership so that they can create a bad impression about the university in order to attract students to their institutions.”
During the 2013 KCPE exams, Kisii University hit the headlines again this time for the wrong reason. Some of the students were among those who were arrested for examination irregularities in the KCPE examinations. The students were caught trafficking examinations material to school heads and teachers for a fee. KNEC officials and the police caught 12 Kisii University students who were found sending extracts of examinations.
The students have also been claiming that there is corruption in the halls department where students are only able to secure accommodation after paying hefty bribes. The matter had been forwarded to the management but no action has been taken.
Among other issues that need urgent attention at this institution are the cases of overstaffing and poor staff establishment, corruption among top managers, and poor payment for lecturers, congested offices and political interference on administrative decisions. It is claimed the VC does not make final decisions but in most cases bows to pressure from local politicians who run the institution from the background.
Insecurity remains the order  the day at Kisii University. Recently, robbers struck in one of the hostels. According to the students, the robbers struck at dawn, attacked students and took away their belongings. The matter has never been conclusively addressed.