Maseno University has started investigations into errors in graduates’ transcripts— anomalies that have cast aspersions on the integrity of varsity’s December 2019 graduation list.
Vice Chancellor Julius Nyabundi on Saturday summoned heads departments and exam coordinators for a crisis meeting in his boardroom on Sunday, an off day.
“Following adverse media reports today (Saturday) that there are issues with the transcripts in the 2019 class, you are hereby invited to appear in person in the VC’s Boardroom tomorrow, 22nd of March, 2020 at 11:00am with your examination coordinator without fail,” a text message summoning the exam chiefs reads in part.
Also required to attend the meeting on College Campus are Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic and Student Affairs Mary Kipsat, directors of campuses and deans of schools.
That Prof Nyabundi decided to hold the emergency meeting on a weekend and at a time when the university should be shut, as directed by Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha over coronavirus pandemic, points to the gravity of the matter.
The meeting comes after graduates who were called to collect their papers from March 4 to March 18 ended up camping on Siriba and College campuses correcting the errors.
Last week, hundreds of School of Education graduates spent five days and nights at the university, moving from office to office seeking corrections, signatures and rubberstamps.
The mistakes, seen by the MEDIA, were many — missing transcripts, stray units, missing units, wrong grades (including Es), missing marks — raising 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.
According to the university’s notice on collection of certificates, the last group was supposed to leave Maseno on Wednesday, March 18.
However, they were still knocking on office doors as at close of business Friday, March 20, and many left without their papers.
“A staff at the academic registrar’s office told us that whoever can make it should return on Monday (March 23). How is that even possible yet Magoha ordered all universities shut?” a disappointed student told the Nation on Friday.
The media has been investigating the errors in the transcripts since March 4 when the first group of graduates was called to collect their papers.
People interviewed included lecturers, IT system administrators and other concerned staff who heaped blame on an exam management system that the university acquired last year.
According to sources who sought anonymity fearing appraisals, the database was adopted to arrest grade fraud that was being perpetuated by corrupt clerks in deans’ 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. Students with eight retakes were making it to the graduation list just like that”
To stop the trend, Prof Nyabundi directed that the final list for the December 13, 2019 graduation be generated using a tamperproof management information system (MIS).
The teaching staff and other stakeholders were trained in August in readiness for the task that would boost the integrity of exams at the university located on Kisumu-Busia highway in Kisumu County.
“The training was rushed but later, we realized the system was faulty. It jumbled up courses, units, names and grades; generated double entries as some entries disappeared; doubled scores 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.
“Our book records show there are students who qualified to graduate but due to these hitches, they were locked out,” he said.
“Conversely, there are those who graduated but our records show they have resits.”
On Friday, Prof Nyabundi acknowledged that the IT system had failed them but vowed to ensure every student gets the grades and certificates they deserve.
“No system in infallible. But we have a back-up,” he told the Nation by phone.
After the December graduation, inside sources told the Nation, the university embarked on a clean-up.
In January, Maseno procured a new management information system, which is currently being used to clear students before they are awarded degree, diplomas and certificates.
“The current system is better. But the problem is it does not have the data that was fed in the old system, hence students have to move from office to office correcting errors,” a source at the IT Department said.
The new IT system does not have records and marks for students studying at Maseno’s city campus in Kisumu CBD but the director, Dr Benjamin Ombok, a close relative of Prof Nyabundi, on Friday declined interview citing protocol.
The abandonment of the IT system procured in 2019 and cost millions of shillings also raises questions on the university’s procurement decisions in the wake of budget crises facing most public universities.