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Defiant Busoga University sets graduation date

NCHE closed Busoga University over failure to meet minimum standards but the institution remains operational and plans to graduate students in November

EDUCATION | Closed Busoga University continues to operate ‘normally’ even after its operational licence was revoked by the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE), this website has learnt.

The university has even set a graduation date for hundreds of students later this year. In a circular seen by this reporter and signed by a one Grace Tusubira, Busoga University has set November 30 as the day for graduation.

“The programme for graduation is finally out. The event will be held on November 30, 2018, and the deadline for clearance with the university is October 15, 2018,” reads the circular in part.

When Crime24 contacted the institution’s spokesperson, Andrew Balondemu, he confirmed the development but declined to reveal the total number of students set to graduate from the troubled institution.

Meanwhile, hundreds of students are groping in the dark as Busoga University continues to battle with the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) over the status of the region’s pioneer university.

Busoga University was closed in December 2016 over irregularly graduating students and lack of qualified academic staff.

The NCHE also alleged that many of the students admitted to the university did not meet the minimum entry criteria for various programmes.

The closure of the university followed a whistleblower’s report to the effect that the university intended to award degrees to South Sudanese and Nigerian students who had only spent less than six months at the institution.

In a September 29, 2017  letter to NCHE, the university denied “to have willfully and knowingly engaged in the acts alleged by the complainants” but a report from the NCHE found the university guilty of the above offences and that none of the Sudanese students was eligible to pursue the various programmes.

“At Busoga University, the students presented foreign qualifications, not verified by NCHE/UNEB, or the foundation programme for Cavendish University which, at the time, was also not accredited by NCHE,” the report stated.

Bleak future

Many Busoga University students are at crossroads staring into an uncertain future. Even the proposed government takeover has stalled because the university is reportedly embroiled in a debt scandal of Shs2.6 billion with a local bank.

Shariff Mbingiti, a student of Bachelor of Arts in Education, says he completed his third-year and even sat the final exams but the confusion surrounding the university has forced him to transfer to another institution, leading to loss of time and huge amounts of money.

“The future of the university remains unknown. We recently heard over the radio that the university was still in operation but NCHE insists the university is closed. I had to transfer to Kampala University where I had to revert to second year yet I had completed my course. I have also had to incur about Shs3 million on credit transfer and tuition for three semesters,” Mbigiti said.

Mbigiti is just one of the hundreds of students who are struggling to find their way following the dilemma that Busoga University has dug itself in.

Students tossed about

Prof John Asibo Opuda, the executive director of NCHE, said the Iganga-based university is yet to respond  to NCHE directive to have the 2,200 students affected re-distributed to other institutions of higher learning.

Sources at the university say of the over 2,000 students, only about 400 students, all from the School of Nursing, have been transferred to other institutions.

When Crime24 visited the university’s main campus at CMS education village in Iganga District, some university staff were seen conducting lectures and droves of students loitering the compound, or napping under trees.

One of the students interviewed by this website, who said he was pursuing a Bachelors in Business Administration, said he was still attending lectures because area politicians continue to assure them that the university is still in operation despite the directive from the NCHE.

Govt takeover

Busoga University was among the two private universities that had been earmarked for government takeover early this year. But the bickering among the institution’s stakeholders and the debt scandal have slowed down the process. The other university, Mountain of the Moon in Kabale started operation last month.

Reports at the university indicate that it mortgaged its campus land and other movable assets to secure a Shs2.6 billion loan.

Edward Gaamula, the planning and development chairperson at the university, said they obtained the Shs2.6 billion loan in April 2016 and mortgaged the institution’s movable assets and land, which houses the university, the bishop’s house and offices of Central Busoga Dioceses.

Gaamula said the university was paying Shs54 million on the loan monthly prior to its closure over failure to meet minimum standards.

“We had already paid up to Shs1 billion on the loan and we were remaining with Shs1.68 billion,” Mr Gaamula said.

Bank of Baroda manager Ravi Kumar Gupta yesterday confirmed Busoga University has a loan with them but declined to give further details.

Balondemu said the takeover of the university by government is still ongoing and that they are still waiting for communication from the committee.

Efforts to get a comment from the university vice chancellor, Prof. Lamech Kibikyo, were futile as he did not answer the repeated calls on his known telephone number.

According to a General Notice No.1065 of 2017 published in the gazette on December 1, Busoga University is not allowed to advertise or recruit any students.

Background

Busoga University is a private and non-profit institution founded by the Church of Uganda under the Busoga Diocese. It is located at the Church Missionary Society (CMS) educational village, off the Jinja-Iganga highway, just outside Iganga Town.

In December 2016, NCHE stopped Busoga University from registering students over irregularly graduating students and use of unqualified staff. But through their lawyers Kwesigabo, Bamwine and Walubiri Advocates, the university petitioned the Constitutional Court arguing that the action was a violation of their rights.

Consequently, an order was issued on January 31 by Justice Solomy Balungi Bossa, halting the NCHE’s intention of stopping the university from recruiting students, pending the disposal of the main application.

“The implication of this order is that, the university should continue operating normally as if the notice has never been issued by the National Council for Higher Education, until the main application for a temporary injunction is determined,” Peter Walubiri, the university’s lawyer, explained.

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