By Josiah Odanga

In the eleventh hour to Kisii University’s sixth graduation ceremony, a video went viral on the institution’s Facebook page, Kisii University Comrades Forum. In the video, a student-protester is seen man-handled by varsity security officials.

Robert Wambui Maina was protesting the disappearance of his marks, a matter that would lock him out of the final graduation list 2018, if he kept quiet.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdO20IRFU2w

Robert Wambui Maina protesting the disappearance of his marks days to his graduation at Kisii university while being manhandled by varsity security officials.

Moments later, Peter Kuria, formerly a leader in the students’ council, published screenshots of Robert’s transcripts on Facebook. Further claiming the protester had failed (got Fs) in some units and was only ‘tainting the good name of the university’.
This reporter investigated the matter of missing marks and the agony of acquiring certificates by students and alumni of Kisii University respectively.

The role of any student in any institution of higher learning is to pay fees, attend classes, do assignments and projects, write exams and qualify. The same cannot be said of Kisii university.

Students of Kisii go an extra mile searching for examination marks and transcripts. And as if that is not enough, people who go through the system of ‘the University of the 21stCentury’ go another mile nursing depression wounds because of certificates which never come on time after graduation.

Kisii University Administration Block. Photo: Courtesy

More than 5000 varsity’s alumni who were conferred ‘the power to read and do all that appertains to their degrees, diplomas and certificates’ are still waiting their alma mater to issue them with certificates, 53 days since graduation.

But this shouldn’t be strange because even in the past five years graduates of Kisii University often endure through the first quarter of every year without that important piece of paper.

Allan Mtange Imbalamabala, an alumnus of the 2015 class, had to pluck a twig and stage a protest to be issued with his certificate in 2016 but he could only receive it in March. Hivisasa.com carried the story with the headline: “Relief for graduands as the long wait for certificates ends”. The class of 2017 also could only collect their certificates in March. Evidenced from Kisii University website, the availability of certificates was announced on 6th March 2018 at 12:39pm.

However, speaking on phone Tuesday Prof Fredrick Wanyama, Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic and Student Affairs, refuted the report that the varsity has always delayed issuance of certificates throughout the first quarter of every year.

“I’ve never seen that happen in Kisii University. Graduands always receive their certificates on time,” he responded, adding that “the problem we have are thousands of certificates which have never been collected and now we are thinking of introducing a penalty.”

But an unofficial update on the institutions Facebook page by Peter Kuria, understandably an insider, indicated Tuesday that certificates for the 2018 class will be ready for issuance starting Friday. “Following the announcement of Teachers Service Commission (TSC ) jobs… the decision has been reached that only Education graduates will be given first priority,” Kuria’s post read in part.

It continued: “The issuance will be from 8th February 2019 to 15 February 2019.” A section of graduates have so far criticized the said decision saying everybody is in need of his/her certificate in no particular order because everyone is apparently being passed by jobs and opportunities to advance their studies.

If Kuria’s post is anything to go by, then it is clear Kisii University will spend the whole of February issuing certificates to the more than 5000 graduates of last year, who are spread across eight Faculties and schools.

Maurine (not her name), who graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor of Education Arts – history/CRE, has had a painful experience. She narrates:

“I couldn’t understand what the problem was. It was real struggle in our faculty. Our names disappeared mysteriously from the final list yet all along we were in the provisional lists.

A screenshort of a reaction by an aggrieved graduate, hiding behind a parody account for fear of victimization, on the institution’s Facebook Group.

The problem couldn’t be mine because I had done my part as a student; searching and ensuring availability of all marks and sitting for special exams for the ones which were missing.

I had also cleared all fees, including extra ones which I didn’t understand came how. But I’m happy I graduated although I suffered serious depression.” Maurine who spoke on phone also said it is annoying how the certificates have been delayed. “As a trained teacher, the license I have to teach in any school is a TSC number… you know Matiang’I (former Education Cabinet Secretary) doesn’t want strangers in schools. Besides, TSC has announced jobs and we cannot apply because we’ve no numbers. Right now I’m just rotting in the village” Maurine added.

In 2016, Kisii University adopted the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System which would, among other things, be responsible for the effective conveyance of marks and transcripts. But while commenting on the same, Kuria said the challenge is because the ERP was implemented only partially.

Fast backwards.

Both Esther Makori, Chair of Department (COD) Management Science and Robert Wambui Mainaconfirm that the latter graduated. In deed as seen by this reporter, Robert was number 778 in the graduation booklet, having attained a Second Class Upper Division Bachelor of Science Purchasing and Supplies Management.

The COD recalls the misunderstanding with Robert was due to “one missing mark” a matter which led Robert to protest. “He turned violent, broke a door to reach where I was. That’s when we called the security personnel. I think he must have been high on something,” she explained.

Sought for a comment, Robert, apparently intimidated, denied being the protester in the video. He instead praised the university for excellent service delivery. “The video did not show the face of the protester. It is not me in the video. I have nothing against the university.

I am happy the university issued me with all my provisional transcripts and I graduated,” he remarked. But in another sentence, Robert admits “it was a struggle” to make it to the ‘list’. Especially because he needed to inform his people and make one or two arrangements for his graduation.

Kuria who had published screenshots of the protester’s marks on social media responded saying the student was not mentally upright. He also confirmed having pulled down his Facebook posts. But how a student who had failed in some units graduated can only baffle.

Kuria accessed the protester’s transcripts and posted them online; the fact that the protestercouldn’t access the same notwithstanding. According to Kisii University Statute XLIII (12), “publication of all university examination results shall be the responsibility of the Deputy VC (Academic and students Affairs) which in this case is Prof Wanyama.

Although the Deputy CEO Prof Wanyama has indicated that all is well insofar as transcripts and certificates are concerned in the ‘Harvad of Kenya’, as the institution was recently christened by the Vice Chancellor Prof John Akama, the story of Robert and/or the Protester, epitomizes the amount of weird actions it takes to make it to the graduation list. Imbalamabala’s twig highlighted the amount of bile a graduate of ‘Harvad’ require to demand his/her certificate.

No story best describes the level of unreliability to the ERP system that the institution adopted to help improve quality of service than the story of Maurine. Besides, Maurine’s experience is specific on depression as the disease that a Kisii University graduate must learn to endure; notwithstanding the fact that the surge in suicide cases in Kenya has been blamed largely on depression.

Peter Ndagi who graduated from Kisii three years ago, points an accusing finger to the failure by the institution to pay lecturers on time. That some of the teaching staff withhold marks as a bargaining chip for their salaries.

 

“I don’t know the changes they have made since I left three years ago. However, if the issues are the way I left them, I would blame them on lack of finances to pay lecturers who in turn fail to submit results on time, and poor administration that fail to ensure that work is done efficiently and effectively,” Ndagi said. The former students leader added that lack of client oriented services is also a challenge that needs to be addressed.

A lecturer in the Faculty of Information Science and Technology, who spoke on anonymity grounds confirmed Ndagi’s claims saying there are instances, in the past, where lectures could go without salary. “Considering the amount of time I’ve taken in the university, Imust admit that there is notable improvement when it comes to lecturers’ pay.

But honestly I must also say that charity ended in the days of Mother Teresa. You know, I’ve been looking for you and you’re hiding, so I decide it’s your turn to also look for me.As of this date, what I can say is the lack of ‘motivation’ to even start marking the scripts. Sometimes the institution is also reluctant to tell us to relay the marks, perhaps because they know we’ll ask for the motivation.”

Kisii University boasts of ISO 9001:2008 Certification by the International Standardization Organization. This points out to 7 Quality Management Principles (QMPs), namely: Customer focus, leadership, engagement of people, process approach, Improvement, evidence based decision making and relationship management.

A 2017 research by Mary Mutuku of the University of Nairobi found out that Kisii University falls short of at least 4 QMPs. They included customer focus, leadership, continuous improvement and engagement of people.According to ISO, the QMPs “can be used as a foundation to guide an organization’s performance improvement.”

A number of continuing students who spoke on anonymity conditions say the ERP has never been effective. “ERP nijinatu (ERP is just a name). Most things here are still manual,” said one of the students. “What do you conclude when you want to register for a new semester and you are told you cannot access your portal? What do you say when the transcripts download section in the ERP is empty and you have to call individual lecturers searching for missing marks?” another student posited.

The students also report that the varsity is always quick in punishing dissent, “not knowing that the university is here because we are.” A story is told of students who’ve resumed studies this February after serving two year-long suspension for having questioned the reality of ERP.

This ending week, Kisii University’s 2018 law graduates have only been admitted to the advocates training program at the Kenya School of Law on condition. “KSL allowed us to sign commitment letters on ground that we avail our certificates not later than 30th March 2019,” explained Gabriel Okoyo, one of the KSL entrants.

Last year, and of course in the past years, Kisii university has been charging Ksh4000 for graduation. Considering that 5603 students qualified last year, the institution received a cool Ksh22 million. Ideally, money which would work towards the ceremony of Friday 14 December 2018, which occurred at the institution’s Chancellor’s Pavilion and printing of final transcripts and certificates.

Briefly. The ceremony at the pavilion was shambolic and embarrassing. Tents and chairs arrived with guests on the material day. Eventually graduands were beseeched to “pick any seat and find a space to sit.” A situation that only saw graduands find space in the scorching afternoon sun. This happened despite the Minutes of the Graduation Committee chaired by Prof Fredrick Wanyama, as seen by this reporter, indicting that the tents and chairs were hired from Nairobi; at a cost of Ksh14 per seat and the cost of tents running into a million.

Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology (JOOUST) is Kisii University’s age-mate. Both were chartered as fully-fledged universities in 2013. JOOUST held their 6th graduation on Friday the 14th December 2018, same as Kisii University.

The difference is that JOOUST’s graduation certificates were ready for collection by students as at Monday 17thDecember 2018, three days after graduation. Don Ojwang’, a BSc Public Health, a graduate of JOOUST class of 2018 confirmed having collected his certificate. Tony Amecha, Students Association of JOOUST Secretary General, confirmed the same saying their institution has never had issues of missing transcripts and delay of certificates after graduation.

The Commission for University Education (CUE) is the body mandated to cover quality in universities. A team from CUE led by the Head of Quality Audit Division Prof Anne Nanguluconducted a week-long inspection at Kisii University in September 2018, or thereabouts.

Attempts to get CUE respond comprehensively to our queries in the matter of transcripts and certificates at Kisii University have not been successful since the only email response so far reads: “concerns received and forwarded to the office of the Chief Executive to consider.” Our calls have also gone unanswered. However, it will be interesting to know what CUE’s report shall finally be as appertains this matter.

By Henix

Multimedia journalist

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