Graduation ceremonies are often marked by grandeur and pomp well deserved after years of toiling to get a kick-start at one’s dream career.
However, the celebrations held over the last two years by graduands in universities across the country have stirred nothing but longing and misery for 28-year-old Mildred Akoth as she made several trips to her varsity academic offices in the quest to plead her case.
A Bachelors of Education with IT student at Maseno University, Ms Akoth suffered a major setback in her career journey after missing out on the 18th graduation ceremony held at the campus in 2018.
Despite persistent efforts to make the graduation list for another ceremony scheduled for December this year, she is sadly staring, for the second time, at missing to make it to the university’s hallowed square after eight daunting years of study for a course that would ideally take four years.
Ms Akoth’s quest for higher learning has been marked with tuition fees challenges which forced her to defer her studies and now she faces the painful possibility of never graduating as her dream remains stalled by missing marks.
Ms Akoth’s story presents a case study into the failed systems of Kenyan institutions of higher learning. Cases of missing marks in universities are now commonplace. Making it to the graduation list at any of the universities is a fete achieved after knocking on several doors in the quest for marks.
When Ms Akoth sat down for an interview with the media in Kisumu, she presented a young woman frustrated by the countless unsuccessful attempts to remedy her situation. Her dream of becoming a history and religious subject teacher reduced to just an illusion.
Having being admitted to Maseno University in 2009, the daughter to a widowed mother struggled through her first two years at the institution to pay her tuition fees.
Her dream was however cut short just before joining her third year in 2011 due to her failure to settle her accruing tuition fees.
“I was forced to defer my studies for a period of three years owing to the Sh230,000 fees that had accrued,” she sadly narrated.
STRUGGLE TO RAISE FEES
Ms Akoth later went on a fee hunting spree doing menial jobs to raise her fees.
“I would do laundry and clean people’s houses charging between Sh300 and Sh600. I would also hawk perfumes to supplement my income activities,” she said.
Her efforts paid off and she re-applied to join the varsity in 2014. A move she regrets to date.
“A local bank manager who was a friend and had encouraged me in my savings journey was shocked that I withdrew such a large sum of money to settle school fees,” she says.
Adding that, “he advised me against it and instead pushed me to invest in other ventures to raise fees, an advice that I respectfully turned down to pursue my dream. In hindsight I would have done things differently.”
She re-joined the university in 2017 and was transferred to the City Campus to continue with her studies.
“I was handed a new admission number and did my third year studies at the city campus,” she says.
Her troubles began after completing her studies and joining her classmates waiting to make the list for the institution’s December 2018 graduation.
NOT ON THE LIST
She missed out on the list due to missing marks but says the school promised to sort out the ‘mess’ in January 2019 and that she would be on the next list.
“When I first reported to city campus, I realised that my portal was not working. I was told not to worry and that the marks were with the dean at main campus; that was in November 2018,” she said, adding “they told me that I will unfortunately miss out on the graduation but will be handed my certificate three months after the ceremony when all graduands troop back for collection.”
Ms Akoth says she has lost count of letters written to the office of the Academic Registrar demanding for her missing marks.
“I lost count of my letters to the dean at twenty-one, all requesting for the same marks to be updated. My follow up has not yielded anything since there has been system migration for close to four months,” she said.
In one of the letters titled ‘Missing Marks’ seen by the Nation, Ms Akoth, writing to the head of department, Education Curriculum through the school of education requests to be provided with her third year semester one and two examination results under admission number ED/4001/09.
“The results have not reflected on my portal up to date. I would like them traced and incorporated under my ED/3094/09. The missing units are ECT 318, ECT 360 and ECT 312,” reads the letter.
GIVING UP HOPE
Her story took a new twist when the university’s finance department billed her with a fee balance of Sh183,000, a claim she refutes saying she had already cleared her fees.
So dire is her situation that Ms Akoth has now termed the graduation ceremony as just a formality that she wouldn’t wish to attend.
“I just need to hold the certificate in my hands to help me pursue my dream career of teaching. I am pained. My efforts to get my third year results have drained me emotionally,” she adds sadly.
When reached for comment, Maseno University Director of Public Relations Owen McOnyango claimed cases of missing marks are rampant when students are almost graduating, many arising from cases of students who missed out on doing examinations. He however promised to look into the matter.
At the time of going to press Ms Akoth’s case had not been handled. Maseno University faculty of education dean Maureen Olel had threatened to deregister her for ‘staying in the university longer than required’. She could not be reached for comment.
“I am slowly sinking into depression,” Ms Akoth said.