Regional dons raise concern over quality of varsity graduates

Prof. Peter Ngure the Program Manager for Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa speaks at the training of university dons at Kigali Marriott Hotel. (Courtesy)

Regional education experts have called for an immediate end to production of half-baked graduates, arguing that this is directly leading to wastage of government resources.

Close to 100 academic experts, some of them deans and directors of graduate schools from private and public universities in East Africa, are meeting at Kigali Marriot Hotel for a three-day training workshop to devise ways of producing quality graduates.

Ken Obura, the chief administrative secretary of Kenya’s Ministry of East African affairs, said that whereas every year universities release so many graduate and post graduate students into the labour market, the feedback from the industry as well as the frustration of prolonged job search and discouraged job seekers give a disturbing scorecard.

“Ask the students and the response is: ‘simply say yes to whatever the supervisor says. After all, all you need is a certificate. If you argue, you will never graduate,” Obura told the meeting yesterday.

“This scenario is worrying for us in government just as it is to other stakeholders, because besides the immense investment that all stakeholders make in terms of time, money and other opportunity costs, the deficit of postgraduate skills to analyse and develop policy models that spur positive growth often leads to wrong application of taxpayers’ resources.”

Obura’s observation was emphasised at a regional forum in Nairobi last month where participants pointed out that lack of engagement of the industry by the academia in course design has continuously led to production of poor quality graduates.

Education Minister Dr Eugene Mutimura underscored the critical role of mentoring and supervision in the academic culture in relation to postgraduate student learning.

He argued that while mentoring focuses on personal growth, supervision focuses on the execution of organisationally determined educational goals.

“It is my expectation also that this workshop will make an important contribution to shaping the development and landscape of quality postgraduate training in our region, in producing quality graduates who would make an impact in strengthening the local capacities of university lectures and researchers in our universities,” he said.

For Dr Evelyn Gitau, the director of research capacity strengthening at the African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC), production of poor graduates is due to shortage of manpower for teaching and supervision and poor infrastructure to match the demands.

“This, consequently, has had a negative impact on the universities’ capacity to sustainably educate the next generation of university lecturers and researchers,” she said.



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