KENYAN students are demanding tougher action against rackets involving the sale of degree certificates and academic transcripts.
There is also an outcry against the introduction of part-time degrees in medicine for fee-paying students who only have to have minimum university entry grades in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education level.
Students at Kenyatta University went on the rampage at the discovery that blank degree certificates were on sale on campus. The certificates, with the university seal and signatures of vice-chancellor George Eshiwani and registrar John Shiundu were available for between 20,000 shillings to 60,000 shillings (Pounds 200-Pounds 600). All a buyer had to do was to fill in their name.
Scores of certificates are feared to have ended up in the hands of drop-outs and students who did not make their grades.
Graduands with pass degrees or lower seconds are alleged to have bought their way to an upper second or first. Some students with BAs or BEds bought bachelor of business administration certificates. Academic transcripts that enabled graduands to insert higher grades to improve their chance of employment in government or with reputable private companies were also on sale.
Despite denials by Mr Shiundu that there was no way blank certificates could end up in the wrong hands, the police moved swiftly to arrest several senior examinations officials. The university conducted an administrative reshuffle involving the three deputy vice-chancellors and 45 other senior officials.
Mr Shiundu was transferred to the administration department amid calls for his sacking. This incited students to go on the rampage. They set fire to the university cultural centre and pelted Mr Shiundu's house with stones.
In an attempt to restore confidence, the university council directed the senate to cooperate with the police to carry out investigations and prosecute the culprits. Council chairman Enesmo Moi Yoi also launched an inquiry and endorsed the invitation to police to investigate and to take legal action against those involved in stealing, selling, forging and printing certificates and transcripts bearing the emblem of the university.
But Mr Moi Yoi criticised the opposition and other pressure groups calling for sackings. In a statement, he said: "The council takes exception to the infiltration of the campus by individuals from outside whose intentions are to disrupt academic programmes."
He also accused the press of trying to foment discontent and disaffection among students and staff by reporting the scandal.
Meanwhile, students at the University of Nairobi rioted, demanding the scrapping of intended part-time degrees in professional courses. Student leaders accused the university of trying to admit unqualified but rich and politically connected students to study medicine and other courses without the relevant entry grades.
Angry students argued that admitting students with a C-plus into the faculty of medicine was tantamount to lowering standards. "Many of us who wanted to study medicine, law and business administration were not admitted because we had no 'A' in KCSE," said the students.
The move to admit paying C-plus students is seen as politically motivated after university resistance to quotas allowing each district to send a certain number of students irrespective of the minimum entry grades.
Vice-chancellor Francis Gichaga said part-time courses were a way the university could solve its financial problems but that it would not compromise standards.
For years the government has asked universities to establish income-generating projects. The government accepted the World Bank's proposal of holding the intake to below 10,000 students each year until 2000. For 1998-99, the five public universities admitted a total of 8,173 students.
Chanting slogans and waving placards saying "No More C-plus, No More Sale of Degrees, Enough is Enough", the students clashed with riot police for two days. Scores of students and police were injured and several cars set on fire before the university was closed.
Although the university re-opened after three weeks, tension remained high with some students vowing to stage another demonstration if the university went ahead with part-timers.
10Jnews internationalTHE TIMES 7Jmay 15 1998 Smoke signal: a Mercedes Benz car set ablaze by rioting Nairobi students protesting against the introduction of part-time medicine degrees Righting history: Sam Tindifa wants to restore respect for rights elaine eliah Wachira Kigotho