BY ALEX TAREMWA
Uganda Christian University (UCU) has responded to critiques who are labeling the university’s nursing products as “fake” and said that there is no indication that the programme of study was not accredited.
This is after it was revealed that the university admitted students into the Nursing Science programme, who did not meet minimum requirements. In a statement issued last week, UCU admitted that while it is true that the students in question were admitted with one subject less than the minimum requirements (biology or chemistry), there is no indication that their programme of study was not accredited; that they were not taught properly or that they did not acquire adequate nursing knowledge and skills.
The Uganda Nurses and Midwives Council (UNMC) rejected applications from UCU graduates who sought practicing certificates on grounds that they did not meet the body’s minimum qualifications despite having a university degree.
In an interview with The Standard, Jemimah Mutabaazi, the Head of the Nursing Science programme at UCU explained that the university has the best skills laboratory and her students are doing exceptionally well in the hospitals where they are posted as interns.
She also explained that because UCU was started before the National Council of Higher Education (NCHE) was instituted, most of the courses taught were given a blanket accreditation meaning that they could continue being taught as the council examined their respective curricula. After years of no response, the NCHE recently responded about the curriculum of the Nursing programme, copies of which The Standard has seen, recommending some changes. None of the recommendations indicated that the programme was not accredited.
“They (Council members) came here and inspected, about six times. They said that we needed a bus to transport the students to the field; we bought the bus. They said we needed a skills laboratory; we built the best in Uganda. How can anyone say that our graduates are fake?” she asked.
Genesis of the problem
In 2007, UCU started conducting a mature entry nursing course, for already practicing certificate and diploma holders. Over the years however, the numbers started to drop drastically.
In 2009, Senate approved a curriculum and a proposal to teach the course to direct entry students. The curriculum approved set the entry requirements as biology OR chemistry, unaware that the two were both a prerequisite.
“By any standards, the students who passed any of the above and had another principal pass qualified for direct entry as per the requirement set by the NCHE so this was not an error,” Dr Ned Kanyesigye, one of the curriculum authors, said.
Admission for direct entry requirements started in 2011. Most of thestudentswhoenrolled coincidentally had studied biology, nutrition, and health sciences, but not chemistry.
In 2013, the professional body that registers nurses and regulates their education, UNMC, announced that both biology and chemistry were mandatory. It was at this point that UCU realised how grave, a predicament it was in.
“We, therefore, stopped admitting students who did not have both subjects, discarded the old curriculum and wrote to the UNMC seeking permission to teach the students admitted in 2010, 2011, 2012 remedial chemistry as compensation for missing the subject,” Kanyesigye, now Dean, Health Sciences explained.
The UNMC rejected this option arguing that; “bridging courses cannot be retrospective.” The students, seeing no solution, raised the issue with the university administration in 2015 and have since sought help from lawyers, the Ministry of Education and Sports, and recently the press and Parliament of Uganda.
In their petition, which was lodged with the office of the clerk to parliament, the former students want Parliament to direct that UCU pays back monies it charged from each of them for the duration of their course. UCU and the three other affected universities, in consultation with NCHE and UNMC, are exploring options to teach a diploma to the affected students but the matter has since been forwarded to the Ministry of Education for deliberation.
Ivan Walukhu, admitted in 2011, told The Standard that he has no knowledge of the diploma and advises the university to work in tandem with the affected students for a better resolution. “To find a lasting solution, the university has to consult with us and our legal representatives,” he said.
The Vice Chancellor, Dr John Senyonyi, was scheduled to meet the Minister for Higher Education last week but The Standard was yet to learn of the results of the meeting by press time