Embarrassing mass failures: has LDC got a cure at last?

Monday June 6 2011

A past graduation ceremony at LDC.

A past graduation ceremony at LDC. 

By Al-Mahdi Ssenkabirwa


For the first time in many years, the Law Development Centre has registered few failures from the 2010/2011 academic year students who sat their first set of examinations in December- March –bringing hope that the Centre which has been dogged by massive failures will soon get back its lost glory.

According to the first and second term results released last Tuesday, out of the 322 students admitted last year, a total 213 students were given a green light to continue with the postgraduate diploma in legal practice. Only sixteen students were discontinued compared to fifty who faced a similar fate in 2009.

The candidates were discontinued after failing both written and oral practical examinations –which is used as a benchmark for one to proceed with course. Some fifty nine others have to re-sit some papers, nine are required to explain why they didn’t show up to sit the exams while twelve abandoned the course. Another thirteen students will have their results verified.

LDC publicist, Mr Hamis Lukyamuzi was quick to say that the improved performance was a result of the recently introduced pre-entry exams where a considerable number of lawyers was left out after failing more than four subjects. “We are really impressed with the performance and we think it is because of the pre-entry exams that we’ve seen a change,” said Mr Lukyamuzi in an interview last Wednesday.

Of the 322 students who are yet to complete their Bar Course, 202 were from Makerere University, Uganda Christian University- Mukono secured only 86 slots and Islamic University in Uganda followed with 16 . Kampala International University sent 13 students; Nkumba University and Uganda Pentecostal University posted one student and two respectively while Dar -el -Salam University had two students while the University of Zambia sent one.

But City Advocate, Mr James Nangwala, also the former head of the Bar Course said the reduction in the number of students admitted for the course could have partly contributed to the improvement in performance.
“It is really good news to hear that but I also think the low number of students currently accommodated at the Centre could have enabled many to concentrate.

So, LDC should continue performing its duty unmindfully of the negative criticism from the public,” he said by telephone last Friday
The LDC, established in 1969 was designed to enroll 120 diploma and bar students, but currently has five-times the number.

Despite the lack of teaching skills and absenteeism by some lecturers, the biggest problem has been the poor quality of students from various universities. Mr Nangwala urged students aspiring to pursue an academic career in law to know that the course requires a lot of concentration and commitment.

Not a tea party
“Those hoping to do law must know that the career is not a tea party. It entails a lot of sacrifice and concentration, ”he added. According to LDC exams rules, it is mandatory to pass the five core subjects including; Civil Proceedings, Criminal Proceedings, Commercial Transactions, Land Transactions and Domestic Relations.

The one-year Bar Course which qualifies lawyers to become advocates is supposed to be completed in one year. A student has to write and pass all his examinations, including oral and practical papers within the stipulated period. Of the 531 students who sat for the Bar Course exams in December 2009 and March 2010, only 36 (6.7 percent) passed all the papers-indicating that 495 (93.2 percent) failed.

In the 2008/09 lot, 485 (84.4 percent) out of the 580 students who sat for the exams failed. Ironically, of the 456 students who sat for the final exams in 2007/08 academic year only 64 passed, while over 114 students were dismissed after failing the examinations.

In 2009, the Centre began subjecting to all applicants to pre-entry exams as a measure to weed out half- baked lawyers. Unlike in previous years where all law graduates used to be admitted at LDC, in 2009 the Centre adopted a new criteria which favoured only students with second class degrees and above leaving hundreds out. The failure rate at LDC raised a lot of concern among the public, political leaders and professionals.

In 2009, President Yoweri Museveni directed the LDC managers to find causes of the mass failures. Mr Lukyamuzi said apart from the pre-entry exams, the Centre has restocked its library and expended the facilities to improve the learning environment for the students.

“We have also trained our lecturers in principles of adult learning, preparation for teaching, instructional objectives, participatory teaching methods of large classes and using ICT in teaching. All these strategies are aiming at one thing – improving performance,” he added

New curriculum
Recently, the Centre also contracted Oak Education Consult Ltd to produce a comprehensive curriculum for all LDC courses. LDC is the only institution in Uganda which admits law graduates to obtain diplomas in legal practice. But the Centre has of late been under spotlight over the shrinking academic standards partly blamed on poor quality of students admitted for the bar course. It remains to be seen whether this year’s lot will post good results in their final exams scheduled for August this year.