by Ben Taylor
Crackdown on under-qualified students in higher education, alleged corruption in student loans
Thousands of university students have been expelled, after a review found that they did not possess the correct qualifications for admission to their courses. In one case – the University of Dodoma (UDOM)’s special teacher training diploma course – over seven thousand students were expelled in a single day, leaving just 382 students in place on the course, less than 5% of the original number.
The Minister for Education, Science, Technology and Vocational Training, Prof Joyce Ndalichako, explained that a vetting exercise had established that the 382 students allowed back were the only ones who were actually qualified for admission to the university’s special diploma. The rest had been wrongfully enrolled, she added.
“Since the (admissions) review established that 382 students passed at least two science subjects with divisions I and II … these are the only students who will be allowed to re-join UDOM and complete their studies at the university,” she said.
The special teacher training program was aimed at reducing a shortage of science, mathematics and technology teachers countrywide.
The chairperson of the University of Dodoma Academic Staff Association (UDOMASA), Edson Baradyana, was critical of the government move to expel the students. He put the blame on the government officials who spearheaded the teacher training programme. “This was the government’s plan from the outset and they stated the required qualifications for admission to the programme, so the university should not bear the blame,” he said.
According to Baradyana, there could be some confusion over the grading system used by the government team that carried out the verification exercise. He suggested that those enrolled in first year were admitted using GPA qualifications, but the government had since reverted back to the old division system.
He added that since he had been personally involved in the initial admission process, he could vouch for it. He added that government officials previously did not listen to warnings from UDOM academicians that the teacher training programme was flawed in the first place.
Earlier, it had emerged that 1,000 O-level students were wrongfully enrolled to pursue undergraduate degrees over the past two to three years without passing through A-level education. The parliamentary Social Development and Services Committee announced in the National Assembly that the students were admitted to various universities and colleges in the 2013/2014 academic year contrary to admissions guidelines issued by the state-run Tanzania Commission for Universities (TCU).
This news came just a day after President John Magufuli disbanded the TCU’s governing board and sacked or suspended several top commission officials over a related student enrolment scam discovered at the privately-owned St Joseph University in Tanzania. 489 students from St Joseph’s were expelled as a result.
The shadow education minister Susan Lyimo questioned the government’s decision, calling for an explanation from government as to why TCU and the education ministry appeared to have cleared the university of any wrongdoing last year, only to take action now. “Who is going to compensate these students for wasting their time, and what is the fate of these institutions?” she asked
The scandal also spread to the Higher Education Student Loans Board (HESLB), which was accused of issuing loans to “ghost students” and underqualified students.
A special audit, conducted by the Controller and Auditor General (CAG), found that TSh 23bn (£8m) in loans supposedly issued by the HESLB could not be accounted for. This includes loans issued to non-existent students, unrecorded repayments by former students, and accounts showing amounts owed by some students to be half the value of the loans issued.
There are also cases of one student’s name appearing among loan beneficiaries in more than one institution of higher learning, and one bank account being used by more than one student to receive loans from HESLB, according to Minister Ndalichako. A total of 2,619 students with loans totalling TSh 14.4bn appeared to have used the same Form Four index number to receive the loans while with two different colleges, she said.
She directed the board management to close the loopholes in the loans issuance and debt collection systems, and to provide an explanation on 168 suspected fake University of Dar es Salaam students who appeared to have received TSh 531.3m in loans and another 919 from the University of Dodoma who apparently received TSh 2.5bn. Both universities have reported that they had no record of the students.
The audit also found serious weaknesses in HESLB’s procedures for recovering loans from graduated students. Over 100,000 students with loans taken out since 1994 have not begun to repay the loans.
Primary school enrolment soars
President Magufuli announced that the response to the abolishment of school fees had been a massive increase in enrolment, stating that pupil enrolment in Standard 1 has soared from 1,282,000 in 2015 to 1,896,584 pupils in 2016. He reiterated the government’s intention to offer free and quality education to all Tanzanian children, stressing that his administration would make sure that the goal is achieved.
He made the announcement while handing over 60,000 desks to MPs, paid for by the National Assembly reducing its expenditure for four months. He also noted that the rise in enrolment raised new challenges for the sector, notably a shortage of 1,400,000 desks, as well as shortages of classrooms and staff houses.
“It is quite clear that there are many challenges facing the education sector. We are doing everything in our power to resolve them,” he said.
Foundations initiative bears fruit
A new study found that basic Kiswahili literacy among Standard 2 and 3 primary school pupils has improved over the last three years. A preliminary report of the National Early Grade Reading Assessment found that targets set for 2015 under the “Big Results Now” initiative had been “met and surpassed”.
The aim was to reduce the number of pupils scoring zero on word reading to 26%, and this target was exceeded with only 18% scoring zero in the recent tests. On oral reading fluency, only 16% of pupils scored zero, significantly better than the target of 26%. Similarly, in reading comprehension, only 26% scored zero against the 37% target.