Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Outcry as dons withhold exam results

University lecturers have been accused of failure to release students exam results to protest against poor working conditions and salary delays.
The Nation has established that the most notorious are part-time lecturers who withhold exam results until the university pays their salaries — jeopardising the chances of the students to complete schooling.
Some lecturers who spoke to the Nation said while cases of missing marks were not always deliberate, part-time lecturers in some universities often wait indefinitely to be paid, even after being asked to teach without pay for a whole semester.
“How do you meet your financial obligations if you are working and you can’t be paid at the end of the month? Such a distressed person has to hold on to what is valuable to the university, for somebody to think twice,” Mr Jonathan Oketch, a part-time lecturer at a public university, said.
He admitted that students have had to suffer after the university management turns the heat on them, saying it’s their responsibility to ensure their marks are intact, before being cleared to graduate.
Mr Edwin Muriuki is a case in point. He completed second year in March at Kenyatta University, but his financial sponsor discontinued fees owing to delayed exam results.
He was yet to receive his first year results although he had completed the first semester of the second year.
It took the intervention of the (government’s) public complaints office — the Ombudsman — for his results to be released and the sponsor to continue paying fees.
Such is the predicament of thousands of public university students whose completion of studies is not guaranteed as cases of missing marks and undue delays in releasing exam results is reportedly on the rise.
University of Nairobi vice-chancellor George Magoha said he has dismissed “several careless staff” who either lose or hold onto marks.
He, however, noted that the problem was not exclusively caused by the lecturers.
“Invigilators need to ensure that those entering exam rooms are properly registered and that they have actually done the exam at the end of it all,” Prof Magoha said.
“The university senate has since set regulations for the lecturers to hand in their marks as and when they are due,” he added.
However, Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi expressed concern over increasing cases of missing exam marks and undue delay in the release of results in public universities.
The minister said it was unfortunate some lecturers didn’t take their work seriously, a situation that has led to students missing graduation.
Some students grapple with missing marks long after they sit exams and lecturers instead of fixing the problem, keep taking them round in circles.
“Lecturers should be role models. Some of us are letting this profession down by engaging in unethical practices. Some students realise they are missing marks for an exam meant to have been done in first year,” Prof Kaimenyi said.
“Be sensitive to these young people and their parents who have spent a lot to educate them. Ensure exams are marked and results released on time,” he told lecturers.
He also warned lecturers against teaching in different universities saying this was to blame for poor quality teaching that risked compromising education standards.
The Cabinet Secretary said some lecturers were so preoccupied with moonlighting that they had no time to undertake research and prepare teaching materials.
He added that lecturers needed time to engage students in a quality manner, but could not do so because they spend most of their time moving from one university to another arguing that they are “poorly” paid.
But regarding KU, deputy vice-chancellor John Okumu said the problem was not that the marks were held by a lecturer but “wrong registration on the part of the student”.
“We have now issued guidelines to both students and lecturers regarding exams and the timetable,” Prof Okumu said, adding that students can now expect to receive their results in five weeks after sitting for exams.
The office of the Ombudsman had asked KU to impose strict time-lines for marking and posting results.
“Some have either had their results delayed, or miss exams altogether, prompting them to re-sit. This has implications, in terms of finances and the time it takes to complete a course,” Mr Otiende Amollo, the chairman of the Commission on Administrative Justice (Ombudsman), said.
Prof Kaimenyi also said that some lecturers were deliberately missing classes on pretext that the university students are supposed to study on their own, yet their guidance was important in enabling students to acquire market-oriented skills.
“It is high time lecturers asked themselves how practical their skills are. Whose knowledge are you teaching? Is it based on your research or you are a mere copycat of research carried out elsewhere?” Prof Kaimenyi asked.
He said lecturers had a duty to be committed and graduate students who can create jobs.
Employers have complained that they are forced to retrain newly employed staff because they join the job market with little understanding of the market expectations.

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