The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) has requested support for the regional university council to set proper education standards or risk the region being flooded with graduates who have no skills and unemployment.The EALA members raised the concerns this October 31, 2022 during a session to adopt a report of the Committee on General Purpose on the oversight activity to assess the progress made by the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) in harmonization of education systems in EAC.
MP Pierre-Celestin Rwigema (Rwanda) said that EAC has some universities (in Kenya and Uganda) and the region can take advantage of this to set standards and implement the declaration of Heads of State of 2016- to get quality education for development.
“All the content in this declaration was for getting partner states to see how we can get an education framework based on certain tools and then harmonize them in the region,” Rwigema said
He said if EAC can find a way to ease mobility for staff and lecturers and harmonize the school fees, the region can get the best results taking on the examples of the universities of Nairobi and Makerere in Kenya and Uganda respectively.
The Committee report observed the different tuition fees for students charged by higher Institutions in the EAC Partner States. This poses a challenge in promoting cross border student mobility in the region.
George Stephen Odongo (Uganda) said that there is an epidemic of higher institutions of learning that has hit the region.
He gave an example of the recent scandals in which a Kenyan politician was taken to court by voters over alleged fake papers, a concern that also put in the spotlight five candidates for county governor in the 2022 Kenya General Election accused of having fake academic credentials.
Odongo said that education and human capital (as seen in Singapore) is critical to development and thus the IUCEA should have all necessary support it requires for it to be able to dispense its function effectively.
Using google search, Odongo said the majority of top 50 universities in Africa are in the South, North in the West and a sprinkling of some (University of Makerere and University of Nairobi) in EAC.
The report shows that the number of current membership of IUCEA has reached 133 (both public and private higher education institutions). This number is expected to increase significantly with the demand for access to higher education in the region continuing to increase, triggered by the corresponding expansion of basic education in all countries in East Africa.
However, the Committee report observed that many East Africans who have completed any form of education are unemployed. the big skills gap is partly responsible for the high unemployment. Odongo said EAC has had so many universities questioning the quality assurance.
“It is not enough to say you have gone to school. For education to be useful you have to combine knowledge, skills and tools and without this you have only been to class,” he said.
He recommended that the IUCEA and partner states need to tighten their belts if EAC is to tell a success education story rather than a transactional one in accrediting universities –which he referred to as an embarrassment to EAC.
Other MPs were not happy that despite the EAC gaps in quality of university education harmonization has not happened in fees, standards, curriculums and practices.
“We are continuously told that it is a financial issue but why aren’t we doing anything on financing and council cannot put this to an end despite different proposals tabled,” asked MP Susan Nakawuki Nsambu (Uganda).
MP Mnyaa Habib Mohamed (Tanzania) said that EAC education system is a colonial one thus there is need to have a single curriculum which creates skills development for African markets.