Tuesday, March 3, 2015
Complaint Against LDC Underperformance: Complainants' Submissions Before Parliament of Uganda
[Today, we appeared before the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, of the Parliament of the Republic of Uganda, to submit on our complaint against LDC, presented before the august House. The complaint is available here: http://www.bbbakampa.blogspot.com/2014/05/complaint-concerning-under-performance_10.html. Below, are our submissions before the Committee.]
THE REPUBLIC OF UGANDA
PARLIAMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF UGANDA
COMMITTEE ON LEGAL AND PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS
COMPLAINT AGAINST UNDER-PERFORMANCE OF THE LAW DEVELOPMENT CENTRE
BAKAMPA BRIAN BARYAGUMA – LEAD COMPLAINANT
Tuesday, 3rd March, 2015
1. Preliminary Remarks
Mr Chairman, and Honourable Members, please allow me, first and foremost, through you distinguished ladies and gentlemen, to convey our deep and heartfelt gratitude and appreciations to members and staff of this august House, for your demonstrated nationalism, as exemplified by firmly standing with us in this noble cause of great national importance. We thank the Honourable Members for exhaustively debating and subsequently passing the motion arising out of our complaint, on Wednesday, 3rd December, 2015, authorising this Committee to further investigate the complaint. We acknowledge and thank all the staff of Parliament for their hard work and assistance rendered to us. Thank you very much.
2. About the Complaint
The Complaint Concerning Under-Performance of Law Development Centre (LDC) was proudly brought, and vigorously pursued by patriotic Ugandans, from diverse backgrounds, under the codename, Friends International – Uganda. They include both current and former students of LDC, students from various Ugandan universities, lawyers, and non-lawyers alike, and parents, who are gravely concerned by the unacceptably high failure rates of the Bar course at LDC, and the deep-seated injustice, and abuses prevailing at the Centre, to the detriment of our people. It should be noted however, that we are not against failure per se, but against a crude, corrupt, cruel, oppressive, and tyrannical system that fails far too many.
The complaint therefore, calls for a serious, in-depth, and independent parliamentary inquiry into these and other related matters, for example the purpose and effect of the LDC pre-entry exam, set by the Law Council, in conjunction with LDC, which we submit is deceptive, fraudulent, and exclusionary. The entirety of the postgraduate legal education system in Uganda is deliberately designed to keep out as many prospective law practitioners as possible, by passing too few, while failing far too many of them.
3. The Complainants’ Case
The unacceptably high failure rate of the Bar course is due to a number of factors, emanating from the constituent representation at LDC i.e LDC as an institution, the student community, LDC’s Financiers namely government and donors, students’ sponsors – parents and guardians.
1. The Role of LDC as an Institution
The biggest contributor to the high failure rate is LDC, through:
(a) Poor structure and design of the Bar course, which is very poor, highly problematic, and largely designed to fail students, through:
(i) Excessively harsh rules governing the passing of the course
The Rules Governing the Passing of the Bar Course, particularly rules 4(7) and 8(6), are inherently unfair to students. These rules have led to failure and discontinuation from the course of many good and capable students.
(ii) A very financially demanding and time consuming course
The Bar course is extremely demanding in terms of time and financial resources, yet it is absolutely full time. Students are forced to either obtain study leaves from their employers, or resign from their jobs, failure of which they have to abandon the course. Ultimately, this system breaks down students financially, and locks out many potential candidates who otherwise would undertake it on evening programme.
(iii) A very boring course
LDC study is virtually a repetition of the whole of undergraduate work, except for drafting of documents, which is the fundamentally new thing that a student is introduced to. Students have to draft and re-draft similar documents repeatedly. This makes the course characteristically boring, and yet bored students cannot perform to expectation.
(iv) So much is taught, yet very little is examined on
LDC examinations are jumbled up in two compulsory exam questions, set haphazardly and ambiguously, with pretended complexity, bordering on trickery, resulting in first, multiplicity of answers that even confuse lecturers themselves; second, leaving out many relevant and useful topics thus narrowing the academic spectrum, thereby disadvantaging students; and third, burdening revision, that leads students and lecturers into petty spotting of examinable areas.
(b) Unethical conduct of professional advisors
Lecturers deliberately invoke fear in students, for their selfish purposes of subjugation and domination, which causes failure, because a fear-stricken student cannot perform well. Students are constantly threatened with failure. Personally, I was a victim of this.
(ii) Malice aforethought
LDC lecturers deliberately fail students whom they don’t like. Perceived troublesome students are specifically targeted and failed. Personally, I was a victim of this. I was openly told this much in class by two of my then lecturers, Ms Nyangoma Patricia and Mr Tweyanze Lawrence, which is why later on in my submissions, I intend to request this Committee to recall my final examinations paper scripts and results from LDC for independent verification and remarking. LDC advisors think that failing students en masse is an effective way of reducing overcrowding and competition in the field, thus saving prospective business opportunities!
(iii) Promoting examination malpractices
Students collude with lecturers and other administrators to indulge in and promote examination malpractices like leaking examination papers, and unauthorized alteration of examination results. Indeed, during my time, in the 2012/2013 academic year, the domestic relations exam was leaked for close to a week. Moreover, currently there is an ongoing probe at LDC, where it emerged that the former head of the Bar course, and his then secretary, among others, engaged in illegal adjustment of students’ marks. There are rampant and horrible tales of bribery and illicit sexual expeditions, which for many desperate students are the only way out of the academic abyss. At LDC, the cardinal rule is survival for the fittest, unfortunately for all the wrong reasons.
(iv) Confusion among professional advisors
The archaic and unsystematic manner of examination causes confusion among lecturers during marking, resulting from a multiplicity of answers to questions, such that some lecturers mark students’ answers wrong, while others mark more or less the same answers right.
(v) A callous examination appeals process
In spite of its highly defective examination arrangement, LDC management operates a totally rigid examination appeals process that is blind and indifferent to appeals for redress. The moment professional advisors fulfil their core mandate of marking scripts and releasing results (however much confusion they may have been suffering from), that is the end of the matter. The results are cast in stone – fixed and immutable – like the law of the Medes and Persians. Much as the rules envisage an appeals process to cure any defects, by establishing an ad hoc Examination Appeals Committee, it is indolent, redundant and certainly incompetent, because it never sits, and when it purports to do so, it simply dismisses any available appeals, moreover after charging exorbitant fees for its redundancy and incompetence. This is purely exploitative and extortionist.
2. The Role of the Student Community
LDC students are not without blemish in the infamous high failure rates phenomenon. Through the following ways, they also contribute to their own failure:
(a) Condoning a state of fear
Students have accepted a state of continuous fear that may appropriately be described as ‘the LDC phobia,’ which, has been considered to be “normal” just like the high failure rates have been. They live in perpetual fear of the professional advisors, fear of the course and generally, fear of LDC itself. This inevitably contributes to their failure in significant proportions.
Students have adopted two coping techniques: first, embracing indolence, whereby they have resigned themselves to keeping quiet, choosing to be passive and indolent, however besieged they may be. It is widely believed that to become known by lecturers at LDC is tantamount to committing academic suicide; and second, engaging in a religious frenzy of despair, whereby students have taken to appeasing the Almighty God and other deities, in order to “conquer” the uncertainty of passing LDC.
(b) Promoting examination malpractices
The uncertainty of passing LDC has driven many students to acute levels of desperation. This has caused them to engage in and promote examination malpractices, in collusion with lecturers and other administrators. Some students buy or simply snatch success through dubious ways, including sexual favours to lecturers.
3. The Role of LDC’s Financiers – Government and Donors
For a long time, the overseers of LDC’s activities had not picked keen interest in studying the problem at LDC. It is hoped that this investigation will go a long way to fill that gap.
4. The Role of Students’ Sponsors – Parents and Guardians
Many parents and guardians don’t understand what it really means and takes for a student to be at LDC especially, financially. Many wrongly believe that LDC is simply a formality – just a walk-over – and so they don’t support their children enough. Consequently, students fail to access notes, go hungry and thirsty, all of which result in low concentration in class and eventually poor performance in exams.
4. General Observations
The consistently high failure rates at LDC are clear evidence of the institution’s under-performance. The rampant abuse of students by some professional advisors, through malicious machinations, is a negation of its core mandate. Apparently, LDC is an institution that presides over academic violence: the weapon which most readily conquers reason. The consequences of this are as follows:
1. University law degrees are literally rendered useless, since graduates cannot practise their profession. Many law graduates today, wonder why they studied law.
2. Most law graduates are rendered unemployable, thereby escalating the unemployment crisis in Uganda, as a natural consequence of literally useless university law degrees.
3. Illegal law practise, technically known as ‘holding out’ in law, is on the increase especially, in courts, because many law graduates are innocently involved in it for survival. This incurably defective system has consequently forced our fellow citizens into engaging in petty criminality.
4. Many people are losing a lot of money, after enduring several challenges and hardships like selling their land and other properties or borrowing money, to obtain legal education.
5. Ugandan and foreign taxpayers, who are the principal funders of LDC, also lose out. They don’t get any value for their money invested in supporting LDC.
A. De-monopolize the Bar Course
We suggest that the only long term and sustainable way forward is to break the LDC monopoly over the Bar course, by devolving its duties to universities in Uganda that are duly authorized and mandated to conduct Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree programmes, with the approval of both the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) and the Law Council. This is because:
(i) Universities have competent manpower. The lecturers who teach there also practice law.
(ii) More employment will be created for law practitioners and other support staff, due to more teaching and training required in the universities.
(iii) Devolution of the Bar course to universities will bring service delivery closer to the people of Uganda, which will be in line with government’s decentralization and liberalization policies and strategies.
(iv) Unlike creating more “LDCs,” this de-monopolization strategy is cheaper and therefore, more affordable for Ugandan taxpayers, since universities already have the necessary infrastructure and materials to ably teach the Bar course. Creating more “LDCs” will require land, furniture, reading materials, staff members and so on. It is costly and time consuming.
(v) The regulatory and supervisory frameworks of the NCHE and the Law Council are already existent at university level. These bodies are charged with the duty of guaranteeing good quality standards in our education sector and they should measure up to their tasks.
(vi) Student abuse and potential of the same, is fairly non-existent in universities.
(vii) LDC’s duplication and repetition of university work will be eliminated, along with rampant student boredom.
B. Verify my LDC Results
I request this Committee to issue a directive against LDC, recalling all my final term answer scripts for re-marking, and also verify my final term results, because I am a glaring victim of LDC’s malice and mischievousness. Some lecturers like Mr Tweyanze and Ms Nyangoma Patricia told me in open class that lecturers’ networks would ensure that I fail. Others like Mrs Mutabingwa openly celebrated my failure, and they still do this day. My only “crime” is speaking out against the Centre’s excesses and shortcomings. When I appealed against my results, moreover after paying exorbitant fees, nothing was done about my matter, because the LDC Appeals Committee never sits. Instead, the Secretary gave me a forged letter of two paragraphs, and five sentences, purporting to be a decision of the Appeals Committee.
– See, the details and circumstances of my appeal and LDC’s response thereto, in Annexures H and I of the complaint.
LDC should be directed to produce the following:
(a) My five answer scripts in the subjects of Civil Proceedings, Commercial Transactions, Domestic Relations, Criminal Proceedings, and Land Transactions for Index No. BAR/584/2012, 2012/2013 Academic year;
(b) Actual results from answer booklet to mark sheet (hand written in ink);
(c) Academic Board approved results; and
(d) Management Committee approved results.
This Committee’s decision on this matter would be premised on the following grounds:
(i) It is well within the scope and mandate of this Committee to do so, because the parliamentary motion authorizing this investigation tasked this Committee to investigate the main complaint and other related matters. The case of my controversial and contested LDC final term results is part and parcel of the complaint, therefore falling well within the ambit of other related matters, open for the Committee’s investigation. The Committee may particularly want to ‘find out’ the veracity of the widespread and persistent accusations of malice against LDC lecturers.
(ii) In the performance of its duties, this Committee has powers of the High Court under Section 8(1) of The Parliament (Powers and Privileges) Act, Cap. 258, to order the production of documents, and appearance of witnesses to enable it, execute its mandate fully.
(iii) It is the essence and duty of the state and government to protect citizens against abuse and oppression from anybody, including sister state or government agencies. A citizen adversely affected by the actions and/or inactions of one or more organs existing in the state or government is entitled to state or government assistance to cure the wrong occasioned, once properly and appropriately before the remedial organs. I am a citizen of Uganda, grossly mistreated by LDC (an organ of state and government) and its staff, now properly and appropriately before Parliament (also an organ of state and government) by virtue of my complaint, which has been duly sanctioned for investigation by the august House. Surely, this Committee, as a constitutive part and delegate of the whole House, should give me remedy, to redress the injustice meted against me, by the very people who should instead be protecting me and safeguarding my wellbeing.
I hope the Committee will be kind enough to invite me to identify my answer scripts, to ensure that they are intact, and un-tampered with.
C. Strengthen Government Regulation and Constitute the Law Council as the Final Examination Body for Enrolment Purposes
Many people have raised concerns that adopting our de-monopolization strategy will inevitably cause reduction in quality standards in the legal profession. We submit that this should not be so, given proper regulation and enforcement of duly set and agreed upon standards by all relevant stakeholders, notably the NCHE and Law Council.
In particular, we propose that the Law Council’s LDC pre-entry exam should be converted into a common and final exam to be done by candidates from all eligible universities for purposes of enrolling for legal practice in Uganda.
Honestly speaking, there is no way those fronting the quality argument can claim that the legal profession is more sensitive and delicate than the medical profession, which has already been liberalized, but with a common examinations body. We submit strongly, that those opposing de-monopolization of LDC, on account of alleged dwindling standards are simply furthering in Uganda, the outdated British feudal mentality that the study and practice of law was only for the nobility in society. We implore this Committee not to join that primitive category.
Mr Chairman, and Honourable Members, we so submit, and pray.