Guard Education Quality Jealously [editorial]

Uganda is facing an embarrassing and potentially damaging investigation into a Kenyan government official’s academic documents that might cost the country its reputation as the paragon of higher education in the region.

The last couple of days have seen the police interrogate National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) officials in relation to the clearance of Kampala University following a complaint that one of their former students, Mombasa governor Ali Hassan Joho’s qualifications are suspect.

Uganda has for many years enjoyed a reputation as the centre of, especially, higher education in the region with some of our universities hosting more foreign students – particularly Kenyans – than local ones.

And this newspaper has continuously cautioned against taking this enviable status for granted, but this aice has gone largely unheeded. Regulation of tertiary education has remained relatively weak, giving rise to doubt about academic standards. This has predictably put Uganda’s position in jeopardy.

As a result, reports now suggest that the number of foreign students coming to Uganda has been reducing, and it’s logical to conclude that questionable quality is one of the possible explanations.

Earlier on, there was controversy regarding another private university in Kampala after it awarded several dozen PhDs during a single graduation event, raising doubts about its capacity to do so. The NCHE cleared them of any wrongdoing.

The liberalisation of the education sector has served Uganda relatively well but there is need for the regulator to be stricter as it jealously guards the country’s niche as the beacon of quality and affordable education in the region.

Leaving such a critical sector in the hands of private businesspeople or religious institutions without strict monitoring, or political interference in the case of public universities, does this country a great disservice.

As the Mombasa governor saga has shown us, a single case can on its own damage Uganda’s claim as the best destination for quality higher education in the region.

The concerned government officials should pull up their socks and move to save Uganda’s education reputation before it plummets to irreparable levels.

Source : The Observer

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