There is a crisis at Maseno University— Kenya’s institution of higher learning that prides itself in lying on zero degrees latitude, the Equator.
For five days and nights, hundreds of Education students who graduated in December 2019 have been camping at the university’s Siriba and College campuses seeking to collect their degrees and transcripts.
The graduates abandoned their work, braved the coronavirus scare and trooped to Kisumu County on the invitation of the university on Monday.
On arrival, their troubles started: the transcripts that were used to clear them for graduation were riddled with errors that they could not ignore.
And the mistakes are many— missing transcripts, stray units, missing units, wrong grades, missing marks— raising serious questions how the university arrived at its final graduation list.
“I was shocked when I received a transcript with microeconomics unit yet I don’t know anything about economics,” said a graduate who was awarded a degree in Education Arts, Kiswahili and CRE.
The learners, who were still camping at the university on Friday afternoon, spoke to the Nation on condition of anonymity, fearing victimisation.
According to the university notice on collection of certificates, the last group was supposed to leave on Wednesday, March 18.
“I was shocked to find out that I had four units missing in my first and second year transcripts,” said another student.
The transcripts pain has led to motley crowds gathering at administration offices, raising fears of yet another crisis: spread of coronavirus.
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe has directed Kenyans not to gather as the nation battles to stop new Covid-19 infections while his Education counterpart George Magoha ordered all universities shut by March 20.
On Thursday, there was a near stampede at the office of the academic registrar on Siriba Campus as impatient graduates scrambled to get service.
The Nation has been investigating the errors in the transcripts since March 4 when the first group of students was called to collect their papers.
We interviewed lecturers, IT system administrators and other concerned staff who heaped blame on exam management systems that the university acquired last year.
According to sources who sought anonymity fearing reprisals, the database was adopted to arrest grade fraud that was being perpetuated by clerks in dean offices.
“The fraud had become so normalised you could think it was the official operating procedure here,” a lecturer at the university told the Nation.
“For Sh10,000, you could have your D changed to A. Other students paid in kind.”
To stop the trend, the university’s Vice Chancellor Julius Nyabundi directed that the final list for the December 13, 2019 graduation be generated using the system.
The teaching staff and other stakeholders were trained in August on the system in readiness for the December pass-out.
“The training was rushed but later, we realized the system was faulty. It jumbled up course, units, names and grades; generated double entries as others disappeared and everybody was in a crisis,” the lecturer said.
“The system, which accepted Maseno Wi-Fi only, could only accommodate 20 users at a time. You could stay on until 3am, enter 250 entries only to find 30 the following day.”
This opened room for all manner of errors, he said.