Uganda's Makerere University shaken and its public trust damaged by a students’ marks alteration scandal last year, the university is still holding hundreds of students’ transcripts three months after its 67th graduation ceremony.
Some graduates interviewed last week have threatened strike action to force Makerere University to issue transcripts. Only its affiliate, Makerere University Business School (Mubs) is issuing transcripts.
Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, the deputy vice chancellor (Finance and Administration), said on May 24 that transcripts for graduates from the main campus will only be issued after the ongoing rigorous verification exercise is finished and authorities are satisfied that graduates didn’t pay to get their grades altered.
“We started with printing the transcripts for Mubs because their results were not tampered with. All the transcripts for Mubs have already been printed and people of Mubs should check with the transcripts office; they should be able to get them,” Nawangwe said.
Asked when all transcripts will be ready, he said verifying results of over 14,000 students by their respective colleges is not an easy job.
“The colleges have to go through results of students from first year up to third year. Now that is a very big exercise for colleges that have got up to 5,000 graduates; but people are working around the clock,” Nawangwe said.
He added: “What we want to do is to restore the confidence of the public in our academic transcripts and it is in the interest of the graduates. Some colleges have already returned results of their students and after verification, printing of the transcripts will also continue.”
Some of the graduates at the 67th graduation
Prof John Ddumba-Ssentamu, the vice chancellor, said: “At each sitting, there are people [involved in the marks scam] that they discover. The students [implicated in the marks scam] also come for hearings and as soon as they finish, they [committee members probing marks alteration] give a ruling... So, progress is there.”
AFFECTED GRADUATES SPEAK OUT
Interviewed last week, some graduates waiting eagerly for the transcripts, said they plan to storm the university soon and pro- test the delayed issuance of transcripts.
Blanshe Musinguzi, a journalism and communications graduate, said he has lost out on scholar- ships and job opportunities because he can’t apply without a transcript. He suggested that the manual results verification at colleges should have a time limit.
“The academic registrar sent results back to colleges for manual verification. It is two months now and there is nothing! These colleges should be given less than two weeks from now to finish the manual verification, submit marks so that students can get their transcripts. We need to get jobs and we need academic papers. Some of us want to apply for scholarships but we cannot apply because we don’t have transcripts,” Musinguzi said.
Emmanuel Kakuba, a Bachelor of Arts in Arts (Literature in English) graduate, said: “When we were clearing with the office of the college academic registrar before graduation, we were given testimonials [to act as transcripts] but now employers know that we graduated: they strictly need transcripts.
Kakuba added, “Without a transcript, I was denied a contract job and also when you get a job of around Shs 800,000, employers normally cut that to Shs 200, 000 because they doubt your academic qualification. We need our transcripts.”
A few days to the February 2017 graduation at Makerere University, the academic registrar withdrew names of 50 students cleared to graduate after an investigation found that their marks had been altered. Most of these students, according to some lecturers, had pending re-takes and they hadn’t been cleared at departmental levels to graduate.
As a result, on the evening of March 6, police officers from the Crime Intelligence Directorate, Kireka arrested Christopher Ntwatwa and Mike Barongo, both information technology specialists working in the office of the academic registrar. Police arrested them at the urging of Prof Nawangwe.
Consequently, the university suspended issuance of transcripts and brought down the online system used by students to check their results. Prof Ddumba-Ssentamu then said the system would be up and running within three weeks but that has not happened.
However, the whole issue of marks alteration at Makerere isn’t new. In 2015, the university’s Senate came under harsh criticism after it was found out that some staff members connived with students via Facebook to improve their marks at a cost of Shs 100, 000 per failed course unit.
The implicated individuals were arrested but the university never brought any serious charges against them. Then a committee was set up to investigate the marks alteration but didn’t do much for lack of money.