On Tuesday, September 16, Peter Mawae, a Kenyan lecturer at Mutara Polytechnic was summoned to the Nyagatare police station.
He told his colleagues he would promptly be back to resume his duties. But little did he know the visit would mark the end of his career in Rwanda.
Mawae had been under investigation for months, following a tip-off from his colleagues that he falsely claimed to have acquired a Masters Degree in French from Kenyatta University, Kenya, the he used to secure a job at the university as a communication skills lecturer.
A similar case befell Sarah Ingabire, a former headmistress of FAWE Girls’ School.
She had forged her way to the school’s top job and worked without being detected for years. It was until she fell out with a friend that information leaked to the Police.
Upon her arrest, Ingabire confessed to having duped the FAWE Girls’ School management into believing she held a Bachelor of Arts in Education degree from Makerere University, Uganda.
The two incidents build on several cases of forged academic papers reported in the past. Sources at the Ministry of Education say they suspect thousands of employees could be in possession of forged academic transcripts, something that brings into question the credibility of employees, some in sensitive sectors.
The ministry source added that some employees present themselves as first-class graduates but cannot measure up once awarded the jobs.
Speaking to The New Times, The Minister of Education, Damien Habumuremyi said forging academic transcripts is criminal and employees involved will bear dire consequences.
He says the new mechanisms that require all public institutions to send applicants’ academic papers before jobs are awarded will expose those who used underhand manouvres to get jobs.
“But the war against the vice must be collective,” explained the minister in an exclusive interview at his Kacyiru offices.
He disclosed that the Ministry of Public Service and Labour had written to all heads of government institutions directing them to send employees’ academic documents for verification to ascertain their accreditation.
“Some institutions are not complying but for us, we have put checking mechanisms in place. We need to sensitise people,” Habumuremyi stressed.
But the source in the ministry said the extent of the forgeries can also be scaled down if employers do not protect “some people”.
Innocent Mugisha, the Director of Academic Quality at the High Education Council, a body charged with overseeing the quality of higher learning institutions, believes that if all institutions and companies adhered to the directive, issues of forged academic papers would have been solved.
“If all comply, an applicant’s documents would be verified from the institutions he attained them from easily,” Mugisha told The New Times.
However, this effort saw a backdrop as many institutions never comply with the directive, once more paving a new window for forgeries to find their way into the workforce that is trying to recruit professional and skilled expertise to run the growing economy in both the private and government sectors.
Mugisha said since the body was established, they have managed to reduce cases of sham academic transcripts.
He, however, notes that the council is still registering complicated issues from the region due to the lack of proper education and a trace back to institutions to verify the accreditation of institutions where employees would claim to have studied from.
Mugisha explained that it was difficult to tell whether a person from the Democratic Republic of Congo attended accredited learning institutions. “They don’t have a list of accredited institutions, so we don’t know who has what.”
Panic grips employees
Sources from the council say some lecturers from government universities have been requested to go back to their former schools and pick clearance forms to confirm that they indeed studied in the said institutions.
Under this arrangement, a lecturer presents a letter from the Ministry of Education, requesting the institution to provide information regarding the bearer’s academic background.
After verification, the institution then notifies the Ministry of Education in the respective country. In turn, education officials put in writing, confirming to the Rwandan Ministry of Education that the said person is qualified.
“Yes, we have been asked to go back to clear our academic papers. Of course, some people are worried because this kind of arrangement will be able to detect those who have been using forged papers,” a source at Mutara Polytechnic confirmed last Friday.
There is also a recent move adopted by the council where all students who studied abroad have their documents re-graded to meet the Rwandan education standards.