Thursday, December 12, 2019
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Quality of education compromised as some Universities turn into money minting corporations

While  reading a news story on the closure of Embu University this week, my mind reflected on the competency of interns who are attached to our offices.

There are quite a number who know what they are doing but with due respect to our institutions of higher learning there were many who do not have the least idea of what they are expected to do.

Despite carrying a letter from the department headquarters in Nairobi clearly stating what is expected of them, some interns have to be reminded that government offices are not high schools and their supervisors are not teachers to carry the cane around.

I  remember an incident where I found some of our interns throwing stones to mango trees planted by the Forest Department right outside the department of Information office. They wanted to eat mangoes yet they were not ripe.

I  was flabbergasted and lacked words to speak to the youth. I only told them to stop shaming a government office. I remember one of them was a university student pursuing a diploma in journalism. All the rest were certificate learners who could hardly construct a sentence in English leave alone writing a news story.

Another day I caught two others plaiting their hair in the office. The seriousness of their institution is equally questionable. How do you send students for attachment and fail to supervise them at their work station even for a single day? Later on, I heard that they finally graduated. I won’t name them since office reports are confidential but wherever they are let them please change if they ever come across this article.

We’ve heard university academic awards being questioned and many of us who studied in the universities in the early nineties and before know what it required to graduate from a Kenyan University. You could spend all your time rioting but getting CAT marks and passing the end of semester examinations was never compromised.

Now there is this other university supervisor who wanted us to complete the confidential assessment report for an intern who had spent less than a month in our offices to enable her graduate. Yet there are many more cases where lecturers have requested the institution to give the very confidential report to the same interns. To some lecturers the attachment is just a formality to enable the students graduate.

Where did the rain start beating these institutions of higher learning? Universities are the highest institutions of learning anywhere in the world. Therefore, university dons like the ‘Caesars wife should be beyond reproach’ in conferring academic awards.

Going by the above observations some of our university lecturers are either overwhelmed by the high enrollment numbers to manage sufficient supervision of their students or are out to deliberately give the wrong impressions of their students.

Either way, monetary considerations cannot be ruled out completely. Why do universities admit numbers that they cannot effectively manage? Why do we have virtually all programmes being offered in almost all universities? Why can’t the universities specialize in a few programmes that they are well equipped to offer efficiently. It is all about money. Like the greedy hyena they want to tap into every coin that is available.

Former technical institutes and polytechnics are better equipped to train engineers and architects but they have rushed to train media practitioners and even commerce right next to the best mass communication and commercial colleges. How do you handle an intern who has never handled a camera, audio recorder or even seen any kind of media studio? Some have even confessed to having written no single story.

Even a dummy. My God! One wonders whether they are coming for training or practice. You introduce them to a news source today and tomorrow you find them sitting in the office expecting to be introduced again. You tell them that you are attending a committee meeting and they want to accompany you thanks to some lazy supervisors who would send them to such official duties.

Back to the institutions of higher learning, media reports indicate Embu University students went on rampage after the institution hinted at increasing fees. The allegations are yet to be confirmed but whatever the grievances university students should outgrow this archaic way of expressing their grumbles through wanton destruction of property.

Guardians now have to foot the cost of destruction besides the said fees increment and those innocent neighbours whose property was looted or destroyed have no reason to sympathize with the university students.

Our society may be to blame for using strikes as the means to getting their demands, but university students have everything to lose by engaging in strikes. How are they to influence decision making by striking? What essential service are they withdrawing so that they can force their way? I stand to be corrected but this is like going on hunger strike in prison to annoy a perceived oppressor.

Does what you chew end up in their stomach? Employees’ strikes may have an impact because of the essential service they withdraw. Can student’s failure to study affect anybody else apart from themselves?

Back to the integrity of our universities. Let money not be the major guiding factor in introducing academic programmes and enrolling huge numbers. Let’s bite what we will be able to chew! Let’s not turn our universities into unscrupulous money minting corporations that refuse to increase their production capacity and only try to meet the market demand by compromising the quality of their products. Many a times this is counterproductive.

Following the outcry over the results of the national examinations, the government militarized the administration of the examinations to redeem the dented image. This was aimed at ensuring universities and other institutions of higher learning receive the quality of students capable of handling the courses they are enrolled to study. It would be very unfortunate if such deserving mortals could leave these institutions with half-baked skills simply because the institutions introduce courses they are not properly equipped to handle or they enroll more numbers than they can effectively manage.

Therefore, university lecturers like custodians of the law should be beyond reproach. There should be no compromise in conferring academic awards. For anyone to acquire academic degrees, they should satisfy them of their competence through projects and written examinations. With the high level of competition for employment, universities have every obligation to equip their students with skills that will make them move from the crowd.

Their parents and the community at large have high expectations about the new graduates and how well university education has prepared them to beat the odds and become successful people, who can be emulated by those in primary and secondary schools,

By  David  Mutwiri

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