The idea of going to university and walking away with a degree three or four years later is fast turning into a myth for a number of students.
The colourful aura of relieved and hopeful students marching in files to the cheer of proud guardians on graduation day may just be overrated.
Unknown to some of the parents, what they usually see is not a degree coming into the family but rather the illusion of it. This is because much as some students actually show up, they are not really graduating but putting up a show to hide the bitter truth as they come well aware that the university, for several reasons, does not have them on the list of graduands.
The dirty tricks
University students have for long unleashed a bag of tricks with the commonest, and perhaps the most widely employed being forging documents.
Parents turn up to hear the student’s name being read, however, when that does not happen, the parent is made to believe the name was mistakenly skipped. Such students are usually quick to present their parents with university transcripts, showing the perfect score.
Emmanuel Omuna, 24, and a graphics designer on Nasser Road, confirms that the need to forge university transcripts is something many students have approached him with.
“Usually, when the graduation date is closing in, students are always here looking for a transcript. And it i possible to design one that nobody will second guess, unless of course you work in the university’s registrar’s office,” Omuna shares.
True to his word, when presented with a fraudulent transcript, many parents never sense anything awry about the document as many do not even know how the original transcript should look like.
However, Lawrence Obbo, a Kyambogo University Social Science graduate, says sometimes the students do not need to travel far to get a transcript because university personnel responsible for issuing transcripts have been bribed by students who have the financial muscle to offer them transcripts. However, such transcripts never make it into the university records.
“I have witnessed such cases. And from what I know students are getting these documents from the people in the system. It is sad. Female students offered sex in exchange for the document,” Obbo intimates.
Other students who believe their parents will be inquisitive enough to find out about their dirty tricks in case their name does not feature on the graduation list, have feigned illness on graduation day and stayed home. Some choose to disappear from home altogether.
However, disturbing reports have continued to trickle in of students hacking into the university system to feed in marks, often walking away with “authentic” transcripts. As for how possible it is to hack into the system, that remains a question yet to be addressed.
Interestingly, Nicholas Lumu, a Makerere University law student believes it is possible. He says, “We have IT students so sophisticated. The question is not whether they are able to hack into the system, it is how often they are doing it.” Lumu remarks.
But why aren’t students graduating
A number of reasons explain why students usually fail to attain authentic degrees. One is the fact that many students accumulate retakes, many find it hard to cope with the heavy course load.
According to Nicholas Mugoya, a counsellor at Kula Uganda in Ntinda, students do not want to face the embarrassment back home when they announce that they will not be graduating as a result of having a series of retakes.
“Some are just too scared to disappoint their parents and families. They, therefore, find it easier to find a grey trick that can fool the parents come graduation day, and such students will go to the extreme to remain in their parents’ good books,” Mugoya says.
Whisking tuition away
Take Daniel Wokorach, for instance. The final year student at Nkozi University confesses with a whiff of embarrassment that at one point he partied his tuition away. Like many others, the money his parents gave him as tuition never made it to the bank. He preferred to keep it in sight, at least for a while.
Expectedly, soon he was making constant weekend trips back to the city to enjoy nights of unending parties. He says, “Often the temptation to use part of this money is a strong one. I just happened to succumb. We would spend the money on beer, usually buying it for the girls. And just like that almost all my tuition vanished.”
With looming university deadlines and no money to meet these obligations, many find themselves in a vicious cycle of lies.
The lying game
After wasting their tuition, students devise means to cover up. The first instinct is to replace the money. A few are lucky enough to find the money, through borrowing, often their phones and laptops acting as collateral.
But for others, it is the start of a backlog. Although some universities are lenient enough to allow students to sit for some of the exams without paying full tuition, others do not.
Therefore, a great number of retakes are not from papers failed but rather those that were missed. This is something many guardians do not know since many are only with “touching the degree” read transcript.
It is common practice for students to buy gowns and even allow their parents to show up at the graduation ground, yet all this is in vain.
Hopefully, with the housekeeping most public universities have since taken up, this vice will soon be relegated to the past.
There is a remedy
One would argue that the best way to stop students from wasting their own tuition is for the parents to bank the money themselves. But D. Laura Ndaba, a senior lecturer at Makerere University Business School believes this is uncalled for.
“We are talking about university students here. These are old people and they are at a stage where they must take on responsibility. So I think by trusting the student to do the banking, the parent is instilling a necessary sense of responsibility in them,” she argues.
Dr Ndaba urges parents to leave the banking to students and instead demand for accountability. “Once you give the student the money to go and bank, the same day they should bring the bank receipts to you.
“For the case of Mubs and Makerere, we usually offer registration cards after the student has presented valid bank slips confirming payment. So your child must soon accompany the bank slips with university registration cards.”
She urges parents to be more vigilant in keeping tabs on their children. She adds, “You must even know the hostel or hall your child is staying in. Make it a point to check their results each semester.
“This way you know how everything is moving and you are aware of any retakes that may stop them from graduating if any. This makes it possible to counsel them in time, before even the final year. And if in the end they fail and can’t graduate, at least you will know the facts and won’t fall for an illusion of a degree.”