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Universities should recruit and train manpower that is relevant to the country, and avoid the orthodoxy of blocking eager entrants who have low or inadequate academic qualifications, veteran educationist Prof. Ssenteza Kajubi has said. Kajubi argues in an interview with Observer School in Bugolobi, Kampala on December 10, that, instead, universities should be tasked to train and graduate quality people, relevant to society’s needs.


Kajubi, who chaired the commission that wrote the White Paper on educational reform in Uganda, says they called for the formation of the National Council for Higher Education (UNCHE) to oversee the expansion of higher education. Prof. Kajubi says they encouraged government to let private universities admit students who afford to pay for the education.

“Private universities should have the leeway to admit students whom they think have the capacity of gaining from higher education. While public universities would put emphasis on excellence, private universities can also put emphasis on adequacy; producing the people who are adequate to serve the nation in an adequate way.”

Prof. Kajubi says he took this philosophy to Nkumba University and it worked.

“We admitted people who had the capacity to gain from higher education,” he said, adding that, “NCHE has strict regulations but I think they should be educated because even American universities today are abandoning the idea of admitting students merely on academic grade.”

He explained that many private US universities consider other qualities such as people who are public-spirited, have working experience or for affirmative action.

“The NCHE is essential to make sure that those who aspire to give higher education really give something worthwhile; not like those churches springing up everywhere; somebody puts up a kiwempe [carpet structure] and with untrained priests they begin, expecting people to be just excited  and give them  money! We don’t want higher education to be like that: there must be quality. I say the NCHE should be there to nurture quality higher education but not to torture universities like [by] way of closing them,” he submitted.

“In my view the NCHE should be concerned with the final product rather than with the entry product.”

“A person is going to graduate or a member of parliament comes to a university takes a course; sits examinations, passes them and gets an Upper Second degree; then somebody raises a question: ‘Did he pass PLE, UCE or UACE?’ Why frustrate him when he has satisfied all the requirements to get a First Class? Such questions are irrelevant because you find many people in history that did not have those lower qualifications but they were able and adequate,” he said.

“Many people who are denied entry to university actually have the capacity to serve the nation in an adequate way. The NCHE should be concerned with the end product; they should say, for example, now when Nkumba University awards an Upper Second degree, does it meet the standard?”


Kajubi says Makerere University’s current administrative wrangles, financial hardships and declining standards are a general problem in the sector.

“The problem is not Makerere alone. The number of people it used to admit was very small and we cannot continue with that Ivory Tower mindset. Makerere and, in fact, all other universities in Uganda, believe in a kind of qualification worship, what I may call the ‘diploma disease.’ There is a ‘diploma cancer’ in this country. People worship pieces of paper rather than the knowledge which those pieces of paper should signify,” he charges.

Kajubi is saddened that the diploma disease has infected the entire society.

“People want to find out what qualifications one has but not what he can do. Many people nowadays go to school in order to acquire a certificate rather than the knowledge and values which schools should be providing.”

Parents, Kajubi notes, take their children to good primary schools to gain entry into good secondary schools and on to Makerere University to get degrees regardless of what type of degree!
He said the awkward expectations of parents and society force students into professions they don’t love just for the sake of getting a degree.

“In the process, values are lost. That’s how we train doctors who will demand money before carrying out an operation, and the patient can die before they receive the money underneath the table,” he states.

“Parents want their children to go to Makerere. If you told students to go Nkozi where the numbers are small and well managed, they won’t because they are very anxious to get a Makerere piece of paper. Such desperate moves have forced some students to resort to specialized groups of people in Wandegeya who produce theses and some papers for them at a high cost. This is quite a disease!” says Kajubi.

He also notes that the Makerere University administration has tried to raise revenue from private students but their hands are tied.

“They can’t develop a fees structure of their own for the private students because government has to come in, too. Then when the academic staff, under their umbrella body, MUASA, strikes over welfare issues the public and government blames them instead.”


Kajubi retired last year as Vice Chancellor of Nkumba University, having held that post since 1994. He says he is proud of the legacy he left at Nkumba. He points out that Nkumba stands for not only academic qualifications but also instills the key moral values of living and serving society into their graduates.

Kajubi prides in the philosophy of recognizing people not by academic qualifications only but also by awarding honorary degrees to citizens who have contributed to the development of Uganda.

People awarded honorary degrees by Nkumba University include local entrepreneurs James Mulwana and Wavamunno; former Chairman Civil Service Commission John Bikangaga, former Chief Justice Wako Wambuzi, former Governor Bank of Uganda Charles Kikonyogo and renowned scholar Prof. Mazrui.

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0 #1 alemu 2009-12-20 20:41
Look where we are. Prof Kajubi was entrusted with the responsibilty for education reform. He was the Chairman of Education Review, he designed the UPE system and didn't follow up to make sure we get meaningful results! He is also unhappy with UPE results.

He also designed the Higher Education expansion programme, and now 15 yrs later, he says that we have a diploma cancer excuse that can't produce great results!

All along he enjoyed the huge sitting allowances. He enjoyed our tax payers money but gave us nothing tangible that we can boast of. He should just shut up in his retirement. He did us no good.
0 #2 Emmanuel 2009-12-21 06:44
Well, in as much as Prof. Kajubi took charge of the Education review and concepts of the UPE, we know that mostly these good intentions are taken over by the politicians, who want to make a profit from what ever is taking place, in a number of ways and in different circumstances.

We could also commend the Prof and all the others who have done thier part, in a country being run by the mad,

If we choose to blame him, them lets blame other people like Justice Kanyeihamba, who has been making noise about the inequalities and injusticies in our society, abielt not going voilent so as to be heard
0 #3 Nayenga 2009-12-27 02:38
I concur with the professor Kajjubi concerning the narrow criteria that prohibits a majority of able students from accessing higher education.

In the UK and US among other developed nations, admittance to higher education is more dependant on ability to accomplish based on many other factors including the traditional formal lower qualifications but not limited to them alone.

If I may speak for the UK system, I am familiar with, experience of a person is one of the factors that Universities take into consideration, as long as you can demonstrate how your experience is relevant to your application, you will be admitted subject to the strict standard which you must measure up to.

Surprisingly, many of these so called no informal lower qualification possessors go on to perform very well, and rarely do they fail. Remember that UK has one of the best educational standards in the world.

Uganda has continually admitted students who fare well at school, and forget that there are so many factors that contribute to ones’ performance, like the school you go to, like Buddo, Kisubi, Namilyango, Gayazza to mention but a few, some work is already cutout for you as long as you pay good attention to your lessons taught by well qualified teachers, the majority of whom are also examiners and make good use of the good library and other facilitation available in such institutions, your passing is a foregone conclusion, but for the majority who find themselves in the rural schools, even the best of their efforts lead no where, that is WHY what professor is saying comes in, APPLICATION of alternative criteria like experience among others to evaluate whether the students has the competence to successful meet the demands of the course.

Give them an opportunity and you will be surprised at the results. This, then in turn will increase the number of graduates in the country and hence the educational level.

To smoothen this Ideology, all institutions in the United Kingdom have common examining bodies, like AQA, OCR and many others. Uganda should follow suit, let the private institutions recruit according to what they think fit, train and let there be a universal examining body so that it no longer where you studied from that counts but which accredited paper you posses and properly regulated.

In that way the private institutions will take on the task of preparing the unfortunate many to fulfill the universal controlled standard.

Then institutions will be measured by how many of their candidates passed. This in turn should lessen the pressure on government-aide d institutions, as now able students shall have a wider range of credible choices to choose from.

This also will shrink the so-called stigma with which graduates from certain institution under look others, since they will have sat the same exams.

This is the secret of the developed world; they have set standards for every educational provider and control the output by way centralizing the examinations. For All professionals, you must obtain a license to practice, which is another way of controlling and monitoring quality as a license can be revoked any time.
0 #4 Matte Magwara 2009-12-28 09:41
Alemu, I doubt that you understand what you are commenting about. Prof Ssenteza Kajubi chaired the Education Review Commission, a task given by the GOU.

It was on the basis of his commission's recommendations that the Gov't came up with the White Paper, one that was basically a policy statement. Now where does Mzee Kajubi assume the blame for eating free allowances and sitting by without monitoring the progress?

Get informed that after his commission had wound up its work, it was dissolved because it had a time frame within which to accomplish its job and report to a relevant authority, something they did.

The task of authoring the Gov't policy and implementing it no longer lied on the shoulders of Kajubi's commission. By apportioning blame to Mzee Kajubi, you are misdirecting your energies. Rather, you need to listen to him more carefully and take his lessons honestly.

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