By Boera Bisieri with Ogova Ondego
Published June 6, 2017
Having completed her studies at University of Nairobi in April, Jane N was all set for graduation in five months. However, just before graduation in September, she realised she could not graduate as her marks for a study unit were missing. Desperate, she started following up the matter with her lecturer who asked her for ‘motivation’ if she really wanted to get the missing marks.
“I did not really understand What he meant by ‘motivation’ but on asking other students I was told the lecturer was in the habit of asking for money from male students and a night out from female students in order to post their missing marks,’’ explains the former student who was forced to graduate a year later .
Kate K, who faced a similar fate at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology in western Kenya, had to re-sit a continuous assessment test (CAT) when she discovered she could not graduate in a week’s time due to her ‘missing marks’ for a first year CAT. She graduated.
But it is not just students who feel let down by their lecturers. Mary Kule, a parent of seven children says she feels betrayed by the university her first born son attended as, three years after completing his studies at Moi University in western Kenya, the son is yet to graduate three years later as his marks are missing.
Kule says she has spent more than Sh20000 (about US$200) on transport from her home in Isiolo in northern Kenya to Eldoret to follow up on her son’s missing marks.
“I have six more children that I need to educate. It was my plan that my first born son graduates and helps me in carrying the burden of educating his siblings but now I am scared my son may never graduate,’’ she says.
Lydia G, a parent to university-going children, simply says, “After the marks disappear the student has to do a re-take that requires repeating anentire semester! It’s so frustrating. At this rate will the student ever graduate?”
Employers and sponsors, too, agonise over the ‘missing marks’ issue that disorganizes their plans due to delayed graduation or unavailable academic results for promotion or accounting.
Joy Kirui, managing director of Doorsun consultancy, expresses her disappointment in public universities over students’ missing marks.
“Sometimes I carry out an interview and pick the best candidates only to realise they do not have a certificate due to missing marks,’’ she says.
Asked how this problem of missing marks comes to be, a lecturer at Technical University of Kenya (TUK) says, “Sometimes lecturers are organised but the marks disappear in the system. It’s a long story and I am really sorry for you.”
“Some students who don’t sit CATs in first year think there are no records to show they didn’t do the exams. They get to fourth year then claim their marks are missing,” says a lecturer at Maasai Mara University in southern Kenya.
But Tracy of Kenyatta University says lecturers, not students, are to blame.
“The issue of missing marks is a serious matter in several universities but when students try to bring it to the attention of the administration they get blacklisted for victimization by the lecturers concerned ,” she says.
So serious is the problem that Fred Matiang’i, Kenya’s Education Minister, expressed his disappointment in the mishandling of exam records by public universities during the 56th graduation ceremony of the University of Nairobi in 2016.
We cannot have a situation where students in the fourth year of their graduation or at the end their programmes have not been accounted for and it becomes a problem to the students and parents,’’ warned Dr Matiang’i as he proceeded to directi the Commission for University Education to organize contact discussion with Vice-Chancellors to ensure they address the problem of missing marks once and for all.
But the problem appears to be springing from the government’s own action when Margaret Kamar, the then Higher Education Minister, directed public Universities to accept a double intake of students. This action appears to have watered down the quality of university education as the number of students per class is too big for a lecturer to handle.
“Sometimes lecturers get demotivated when they have such big classes that they do not care to follow up on undelivered assignments or cat marks,’’ says Anthony Mukunda , the Vice chairman of Kenyatta University’s Ruiru campus in central Kenya
But the problem of missing marks appears to be compounded by part-time lecturers. Since these lecturers are only paid to teach and not invigilate, most of them take up jobs in with the many private Universities across the country. These jobs take up too much of their time that they may end up not submitting students’ marks to the relevant academic officers
“Sometimes part time lecturers are delayed on payments or are just not paid so they deliberately hold onto students’ marks,’’ says Dr Kusimba Nakhisa of University of Eldoret.
Prof Jacob Kaimenyi , then Kenya’s Education Minister, had in March 2014 asked universities to explain why students’ marks went missing. Only one public university—Kenyatta University—and one private– Catholic University of Eastern—responded, both denying any cases of missing marks.
Prof Kaimenyi then went ahead to ask public universities to vet part-time lecturers and make them sign performance contracts in order to make them accountable to the universities they serve.
Like the TUK lecturer explained earlier in this article, ‘missing marks’ may be attributed to unstable computer systems. Lecturers, he says, mark exams and submit marks on time but after some time the marks get mixed up or in dire cases, disappear from the system. Often the administration is ‘too busy’ to notify the concerned lecturer and students end up with missing marks.
“I Know of a lecturer in one of our public universities who has had to re-enter marks of more than 600 students more than twice due to disruption of the university system,’’ says Dr John Mugubi of Kenyatta university.
According to a quality audit report carried out by the Commission for University Education (CUE) between December 2016 and January 2017, some universities have a chronic problem of missing marks, delayed completion rates and non-accountability for students at all levels.
During the 2017 graduation cycle, the report recommends, all universities will be required to ensure all students receive their transcripts and results prior to graduation as opposed to the previous years where academic certificates and transcripts were picked after graduation.
To ensure consistency and continued compliance with existing institutional audit, CUE has ordered every university to establish and implement an effective electronic student and data management system by the end of June 2017.Failure to comply with this requirement , CUE warns, could lead to the university in question being sanctioned, including being stripped of the university status.