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Computer Plan For Colleges

By Samuel Siringi and Kariuki Waihenya, The Daily Nation, 12 February 2001

Nairobi - A regional electronic network will be established to link higher education institutions in East Africa.

The network to be set up by the Inter-University Council of East Africa (IUCEA) is to support and promote new methods of teaching and learning. It will assist IUCEA to disseminate information to its member institutions.

The executive-secretary of IUCEA, Prof Chacha Nyaigotti-Chacha said plans were underway to start collaborative research and development programmes in member institutions.

The partnership will also include development of postgraduate courses and source funds for institutions of learning.

"IUCEA will seek quality training by facilitating harmony with respect to entry standards (to universities), in partnership with accreditation councils and examination boards in the regional states," he said.

The council will develop criteria for assessing standards and assuring the quality of teaching and research in the region. Towards this end, quality assurance mechanisms, self-evaluation and the comparability of degrees in partnership with the national higher education commissions and accreditation councils will be used.

"We will assist governments and universities to identify the main causes of brain drain of academic and administrative staff and find appropriate solutions, including improvement necessary salaries and terms of service," he said.

New policies for staff and student exchanges without the transfer of funds and monitoring their effectiveness are issues to be started. In an interview with Blackboard, Prof Chacha, criticised universities for delay in releasing examination certificates and transcripts for students. The practice denied graduates jobs.

With the advancements of technology, students needed to receive their certificates and transcripts as soon as the marking process was completed.

He said the delay was killing the morale of students as they did not know how their previous performance.

Prof Chacha, a former secretary of the Higher Education Loans Board, urged universities to "re-create their mission" and ensure the courses on offer matched technological and market needs.

Annual meetings were necessary to give scholars a chance to exchange information on trends in education.

"Universities need to rename some courses to make them comprehensible to the generation people," he says.

Prof Chacha also proposed that universities liberalise teaching to allow departments to design and implement their curricula.

Excess university staff should be retrenched to cut costs and ensure those who remained were paid better. Currently, the universities are overstaffed and workers underpaid and under utilised.

A survey should be carried out to determine the productivity of each worker, he added.

Indicators should be designed to determine workers' productivity. "Senior lectures have only six lessons a week and this is grossly below what they rightfully should have," he said.

According to Prof Chacha, governments should declare the number of students they are able to sponsor and review the current unit cost per student to reflect actual training costs.

The current arrangement assumed that each student spent the same amount of money for training irrespective of the course. The reality, however, is that science and technology-based courses, including medicine are expensive to run compared to arts.

The private sector should be encouraged to participate in curriculum review and the normal running of universities.

This will enhance research and learning at the institutions, Prof Chacha said.

To make education costs cheaper, universities should consider accrediting colleges "so students can pursue degrees from colleges where they have closer proximity".

IUCEA is a successor to the Inter-University Committee for East Africa which operated under the auspices of the East Africa Community until the latter collapsed in 1977. The council has been existing since EAC was dissolved in 1997. Among its objectives include to coordinate academic and research activities in universities and assist universities to determine their training needs. The headquarters of the council are based in Kampala, Uganda.

Copyright 2001 The Daily Nation. Distributed by allAfrica.com. For information about the content or for permission to redistribute, publish or use for broadcast, contact the publisher.