Expired Courses? Wake up National Council of Higher Education

Waking up to the news that numerous Ugandan University Courses had expired was not the best start of the week. As a parent and a friend to many other parents a good number of them with children or dependants pursuing university courses locally, I got depressed.

Lately we have academic institutions that have made it a pass time to not only create fancy looking duplicates of courses but also hype them up for the gullible citizenry who are yearning to have a household member with a degree on their head.

Then you have the National Council of Higher Education that has chosen to sleep on duty. On the organisation’s website, the message from the Executive Director clearly states that, ”…the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) is mandated to regulate and guide the establishment and management of higher education institutions as well as regulating the quality of higher education, equating qualifications and advising Government on higher education matters.”

Anyone with a basic comprehension of the English language can clearly see that Course Accreditation lies within their docket and they must have watched on as Universities went ahead to deliver expired courses. Really?

A look at the organogram of the organisation indicates that it has a Directorate of Quality Assurance and Accreditation under which you find a Department of Institutional Licensing and Accreditation, Department of Program Accreditation, Department of Quality Audit, Monitoring and Compliance, Department of Standards, Recognition and Equation of Qualifications.

Now I ask, what are all these departments doing when we have such a huge problem of expired courses? What is the role of those staffing these offices? Are they largely staffed by mere incompetents who found their way there because of political, tribal, religious or any other flimsy non professional circumstances?

They may choose to blame the universities for not doing their adequate followup but as an institution, they collect money from any institution of higher learning student that is enrolled. Why then don’t they care to ensure that this student is well catered for in all aspects of regulation? This business of guaranteeing non performers employment with no delivery expectations need not be tolerated going forward.

See the arrogant statement below that the institution put out regarding the matter. It is about them sitting in their offices and everyone going to them. In this day and age? Are you being a merely responsive institution with no need for proactivity? Get real and get out of that old school mentality.

NCHE’s response on the matter

Their failure to harness the use of technology in their midst is another glitch in such an organisation whose aim is to shape the academic trends of this nation. Why for example can’t key information be online like the Programme accreditation manual, a searcheable database of the accreditation status of academic programs among others? This can then be linked to a reporting system that sends periodic reminders to institutions about the status of their courses. Not too hard to think about however, when you focus on recruiting staff based on skewed matrix, you get such pedestrian and old school approaches to doing work. A senior six computer literate kid could effect this in less than two weeks.

The Council Chairman of the Institution, Dr Elly Katunguka happens to be the Vice Chancellor of Kyambogo University which according to the release, has the highest number of expired courses!!!! Imagine!!! You can’t head an institution with 197 expired courses and still have the audacity to collect school fees.

The Chairperson of the Accreditation and Quality Assurance Committee Prof. Joy Constance Kwesiga leaves one wondering what her exposure within the various academic institutions she has run has impacted upon her ability to oversee matters at a national level.

The Chairperson of the ICT, Research and Innovation Committee, Dr Jenipher Twebaze Musoke who has such a flowery CV working with numerous global institutions clearly exhibits a lackadaisical approach to this assignment.

On the management team, Dr. Aloysius Sembatya who is the Director Quality Assurance and Accreditation and Dr Nora Mulira, the Director of ICT Research and Innovation have numerous questions to answer. As sector heads, they are clearly sleeping on duty and putting the future of our children at risk. I personally recommend a serious shakeup in that institution. It needs an earthquake with the ripple effects similar to those that Jennifer Musisi brought to KCCA some years back.

As for the universities, I will dwell on Makerere University for two main reasons. It is my Alma Mater and also regarded as the apex university of Uganda. In a WhatsApp message allegedly from Prof. Nawangwe the Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, he states, “A number of our academic programmes are not accredited by the National Council of Higher Education (NCHE) and this has led to the denial of admission to one or two of our graduates to higher degrees by some European universities and this has understandably raised concern among members of the public. This problem has been due to laxity partly on our side and also on the side of the NCHE. On our side, there have been unacceptable delays in the review of some programmes by departments, schools, and colleges, and occasionally at the Senate level for re-accreditation as required by law. On the side of the NCHE, there have been delays in processing programmes for accreditation and also delays in updating their website.”

This clearly brings out similar undertones of busy bodies at Makerere University who feign busy schedules yet all they are grappling for is to maintain that pay cheque that allows them to continuously qualify for salary loans as well as take time to do personal errands while robbing their employer.

Instead of generalising, this is the time to shake up and make individuals accountable for this impasse. It is such a shame for an institution of Makerere’s stature to be found tolerating such petty inconsistencies. If NCHE is slow, Makerere has the might to push them into action. They are not a Johnny Come Lately like a one Metropolitan University.

What is happening at NCHE unfortunately is being replicated within various government institutions and it is only a matter of time before the rot is unveiled. It is time for a holistic change in system thinking within our Government institutions that are filled with self entitled non performers.

Shame on you NCHE, Makerere and other Universities that have slept on duty. I do request the public defender and people’s hero Counsel Male Mabirizi to take this matter up and file a Class Action Suit against these sleepy institutions that have specialised in milking parents dry while belching all the way to the bank.

James Wire
Business & Technology Consultant
Twitter: @wirejames
Blog: https://wirejames.com

A Rebirth of Traditional Schools in Uganda is coming up

Over the past two decades, there has been a steady decline in the influence and seductiveness of the so called traditional schools in Uganda. Just for us to be on the same page, I mean schools like Busoga College Mwiri, Nabumali High School, Tororo College, Jinja College, St. Joseph’s College Layibi, Mvara Secondary School, Dr. Obote College Boroboro, Kiira College Butiki, St. Henry’s College Kitovu among others.

While they declined, privately run schools took their space and rose to prominence. Never mind that most were hasty arrangements of arcade like structures being turned into schools. They were favoured alot by the read and cram only curriculum that has been in place hence allowing them to focus on churning out students that are best described as paper tigers whose goal is to score distinctions in a 2 hour exam aimed at rating your knowledge gain over a span of four years!!!!

The introduction of the Competence Based Curriculum (CBC) in Uganda is one of the greatest highlights the NRM regime can pride in. This is a curriculum that emphasizes what learners are expected to do rather than mainly focusing on what they are expected to know. In principle, such a curriculum is learner-centered and adaptive to the changing needs of students, teachers, and society.

This year I got a child that joined Senior 1 hence my keen interest in understanding the CBC. For starters, I did observe the teaching approach at his school and was very impressed when I saw the students in smaller groupings during lesson time, discussing and later presenting to the entire class. The teacher simply played a facilitative role and I was quite awed when I saw these young children exude information that in yesteryears we awaited for teachers to dispense.

I will never forget the horrible experience of learning mathematics in my S2 from a teacher who had been overtaken by evolution. He made me hate the subject yet in later years, fellow students enabled me grasp the concepts better.

I have always felt cheated when all the ratings by the school for my children centred around marks scored in an exam hence denying me the ability to rate them in other spheres. This worried me so much that when Lockdown came up, I got so happy because while other parents were out there scampering to have their children coached during this time so they can skip a class, I focused on skilling mine and by the time they returned to school, they had attained a number of other practical skills.

Come end of term, I read through the four page report for my son and the breakdown was the first thing that caught my eye. The table below shows an entry of just one of his results.

They are able to gauge the pupil’s competencies and skills. Something I find very appealing.

The Score, replaces the standard format we have been accustomed to of 80% and the like. It is a calculation of Marks Scored divided by Total Marks and the result multiplied by 3.

By having such a nearly holistic assessment of the learner, I strongly believe that any serious parent will benefit through fully understanding their child at school. You get to appreciate their soft skills as well as hands on readiness.

I have heard concerns from some circles that there are teething implementation challenges. However, like birth pains, they are eventually going to yield something bigger and better for us.

Questions arise when it comes to the readiness of teachers to undertake this curriculum. The Government did not do us justice by inadequately preparing them and right now a good number are no different from an Imam who has been sent to preach in a Balokole church.

Imagine an individual who has been used to being the epicentre of knowledge having to turn around and become a mere facilitator. It takes alot of humility to embrace that.

The continuous assessment is such a headache for those schools that have been investing money in bribing their way into high grades through manufactured distinctions by simply buying final exam papers as well as compromising markers.

It is a shame to hear that the undercurrents trying to frustrate this curriculum implementation are some of the biggest investors in private education, a number of whom are even employed in Government circles.

This need for a detailed analysis and comprehension of students is not likely to work well for most private and primarily profit driven schools that focus on admitting large numbers in order to reap more financially.

The issue is exacerbated by the part time nature of their teaching staff that swing from one school to the other limiting their student contact severely.

A decade from now, there will be a clear distinction between the quality of students emanating from the traditional schools that choose to tap into their readily available class and non class room resources viz a viz the ones from the shopping arcade modeled private schools.

The writing is on the wall. Unless something drastic changes in the way private schools are setup, I foresee a glorious rebirth of traditional schools.

James Wire

Business & Technology Consultant
Twitter: @wirejames
Blog: https://wirejames.com