Preparations for the graduation ceremony at Moi University in August last year were blemished by news of 700 students being left out of the list due to missing marks.
A few of them went to court to force the university to include them in the graduation list.
However, Moi University administrators stood their ground, insisting there were no records of grades for some units or that the students had fee balances.
The scourge of missing marks has stalled career take-offs and cost families and the economy an unquantified amount in opportunities and time.
“It’s one of the biggest problems facing universities. I got my transcripts for first year long after I graduated,” Collins Murimi, a graduate of Technology (Design) from the Technical University of Kenya, said.
Murimi told the media that things are bad and refers to an incident in 2017 when the whole class of interactive design was awarded a pass because their end of first semester exam results disappeared.
Murimi, who is employed at a company that specialises in prefabricated house products, says many of his classmates lost valuable time when they were made to resit the tests.
David Wesonga graduated from Moi University in 2018, having studied for one year more than his contemporaries at other universities.
“You’d have to be very lucky to not miss marks,” he said.
Wesonga said he fails to understand why marks rarely go missing when a student repeats a unit.
Lecturers interviewed said students may have their marks if they sit examinations without registering for the units or if they have not cleared fees.
Some students admitted that lecturers allow them to sit the tests on the agreement that they would register.
Some, however, do not do so and the teachers cannot upload the marks onto the portal. “Marks for all my seven units that semester were missing. I got some of the grades after following up with lecturers, but I’d to resit the others,” Enoch Kirui, a fourth year student at the University of Nairobi, said.
He hopes to complete his studies in April despite a 2018 hitch when he was a third-year.
Kirui said students fear that long periods of study may make employers doubt their competence.
“It’s a systematic problem tied to how universities have to raise money to survive but which some students abuse,” a dean of faculty at a major public university said.
A semester may end on a Friday, with the next one beginning the following Monday yet the institutions have to struggle to fill the funding gaps from the government, he said.
Students then proceed with studies without marks for the previous semester. Lecturers end up overworked and are given little time to mark the scripts.
The dean said some crafty students sign for sitting an examination but leave the room without submitting their scripts.
“They later put pressure on lecturers to give them marks or special examinations,” he said.
Some lecturers, however, blame students for not being serious with their work.
Rogue learners, they say, use missing marks as an excuse for hiding their sloth from their parents and guardians.
Prof Egara Kabaji of Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology says some 60 per cent of missing marks cases “is a creation of students”.
He says learners who do not attend lectures, those who do not sit tests and the ones who fail, tell their families that lecturers lost their marks.
“There is an attendance roll for every examination. The onus is on the lecturer to produce the results. There should be nothing like missing marks,” he says.
Prof Kabaji admitted that there are genuine cases mainly occurring at universities “where there is mass production”.
He said lecturers handling hundreds — or even thousands — of students are overwhelmed by work.
“The quality of teaching and marking can be compromised,” the don says.
He suggests the use of foolproof technology like biometrics in examination rooms, adding, confirmation of the number of scripts submitted would remove doubt on whether or not one sat an examination.
“With this, it would make it easy for the administration to take action against negligent lecturers,” he says.
A number of students complain that lecturers refuse to upload their marks onto the system, insisting on sexual favours.