Failure, like success, is responsibility of all

Tuesday April 3 2018

The question of who should carry blame in case

The question of who should carry blame in case of failure at universities remains a contentious one.  

By Desire Mbabaali

In hush hush tones in university corridors, as well as boldly for some, students often characterise their lecturers as ‘stingy’ with marks or bombard them with complaints of, ‘you failed me’ when faced with a retake.

“Sometimes there are particular course units that always register a very big number of retakes. It sometimes makes me wonder whether the problem is with the lecturer or whether the course unit is just hard,” Rosemary Ninsiima, a first year Social Work and Social Administration student at St. Lawrence University, wonders.
Is every time a student fails entirely their problem or sometimes it is a problem of the lecturers/ tutors?

According to Catherine, a third year student of Bachelors in Political Science and Public Administration at Makerere University, “There are rumours of lecturers who completely do not mark their student’s scripts but rather just give them random marks. I, however, think this will change since marking is now centralised,” she says.
However, Jude Ssempijja, a second year Midwifery student at Lira University, says a student’s failure to pass exams should be their responsibility. “Some students keep dodging classes and think they will come and pass the exam! Some only read a few days to the exam. This can only lead to cramming and misfiring in the exam. And if one’s course is majorly practical, your knowledge or ignorance of the subject is evident in what you do,” he asserts.

Drawing the line
In agreement with Sempijja is Andrew Mwebesa, a lecturer at Bugema University. “Every time your students do not perform as expected, as a lecturer you are answerable. This is to explain that no lecturer in their right mind wants their students to fail,” he says. Mwebesa also adds that like in any society, a lecturer might clash with a student, but that does not mean they will fail them. “We are professionals who do not act on whims of anger,” says Mwebesa.

In some universities students are not required to write names on their scripts. This is aimed at reducing bias and conflict of interest.
“A student is not even allowed to write their name on the script but their registration numbers. So, how can a lecturer know that this is David’s number, so let me fail him? I personally find that hectic and almost impossible,” David Mukulu, second year Bachelors of Arts in Mass Communication student at Uganda Christian University, Mukono, says.
On the contrary, Sharon Murungi, a third year Business Administration student at Makerere University Business School, shares that dubious deeds of lectures failing students are real. “I have never experienced it, but sometimes in coursework, I think lecturers under mark. You can for example look at your script, compare it with another student who got higher marks than you, and realise yours is much better,” she says. She further questions why some of their scripts are never returned by lecturers even after scoring the marks.

Hassan Sematimba, the spokesperson International University of East Africa says: “In cases where students are not satisfied with their examination mark, they can apply for a remark by writing a letter through the head of department requesting for an upgrade. They also pay $100 (about Shs300,000) to the university accounts office before their request is granted.”
Though students’ complaints of being under marked and failed by their lecturers are contetious, failure, just like success, is sometimes a responsibility both parties should share.

Finding Solution
In December last year, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, Makerere University vice chancellor, introduced a centralised marking system to cub delays in release of transcripts, marks and loss of students’ scripts among others. This, he said was introduced after students complained about lecturers losing their scripts and marks.