Tuesday, September 29, 2020

A tale of two Limkokwing’s

Limkokwing must be two worlds in a Block 7 plot swarming with black-attired people. Inhabitants of one world see the good and those of the other the bad.

Pen poised over a document that contains names, a Limkokwing lecturer checks off foreign-sounding names as he keeps up a running commentary liberally peppered with astounding allegations.
“This guy now claims to have two masters’ degrees he did not have a year ago,” he claims himself as he makes an asterisk against a name. “This one can’t even cut and paste on a computer but he is my boss.” The pronouncement is accompanied by a dismissive wave of the hand and derisive cluck of the tongue.

He turns over the page, eyes searching for his next target, pen ready to strike.

“This one is the sister to…” he flips the page back, scours it and exclaims: “This one! He was on the panel that interviewed and hired her. A few weeks later the sister interviewed and hired her husband. They are all members of the same church. Church members pay tithe which means that the church benefits directly and financially from this method of recruitment.”

In the opposing world, the university’s spokesperson, Mercy Thebe, deflates those allegations with seven words: “We do not condone nepotism in Limkokwing.”
To buttress that point, Thebe reveals that human resources representatives are part of the interview process. This, she explains, is meant “to ensure transparency and fairness”.

Thebe further explains that the HR department “carries out a background check on applicants upon recruitment to ensure that they hold proper qualifications”. Such scrutiny would have been applied in the case of Samwel Obonyo Ogenga.

However, the reported background check missed a long list of mysteries and inconsistencies contained in his documents.

Among the documents that Ogenga used to secure employment at Limkokwing is a provisional certificate from India’s Agra University. The entries are in cursive script. The certificate was issued on February 21, 1992. In this particular case, ‘provisional’ does not seem to mean intended to exist for only a short time because 17 years later, Ogenga is still using the provisional certificate.

Also filled out in cursive script is a transcript from the same university. Out of a possible total of 100 points, the minimum pass mark is given as 33 points. The transcript shows that Ogenga studied Economics (38 percent), Community Development and Extension (50 percent), Cooperation (52 percent) and General English (39 percent). Out of a total of 1200, he got 567 points and obtained a second class pass.

The serial number is smudged and the grids appear to have been made with a ruler because the connecting lines are not straight.

Agra University in India certificates have in the past been at the centre a fake degree and marketsheet racket.
Indian police arrested some officials of Suryia Consultants in East of Kailash, South Delhi, selling fake degrees and marketsheets of Agra University. It is not clear whether the Limkokwing University HR department checked with Agra University to confirm that Ogenga’s papers are genuine.

A certificate with handwritten entries from the Indian Management Training & Research Institute in Jalandhar, shows that Ogenga obtained a post-graduate Diploma in Cooperative Management. The serial number is also handwritten. The certificate says that he attended the 1991-92 session when in 1991 he should have been doing the final year of his three-year degree at Agra which is in Uttah Pradesh state. Jalandhar and Uttar Pradesh are two different states.

Ogenga’s CV says that after Agra he worked at Oyugi Ogango Secondary School in Kenya as a deputy headmaster. His duties included “implementing rules, teaching economics, business studies, exams coordination, secretary to the teachers [and] chair to the councelling (sic) department.” A year later (1993) he was “full headmaster” at Agenga Secondary School. Duties: “curriculum supervision, teaching economics, business studies, school administration, secretary board of governor, coordination with ministry (sic) of education [and] liase with N.G.Os”.

Nowhere does it show that he ever worked as a teacher before assuming managerial roles.

That is consistent with the story of his career. At the tender age of 17, Ogenga’s CV shows that he was a placement officer in the Ministry of Labour with supervisory powers. He was “placing & distributing labour disputes to different officers, liase with the employer for vacancies, taking compensation cases to court [and] administering other labour duties”.

His first job in Botswana (again according to his CV) was with Edu Consult between January 1995 and December 1997. Against ‘Position of Responsibility’, it is written “formal&informal education (curriculum guidance), councelling”.

It is unclear where he was in 1998 but in 1999, he enrolled at Egerton University in Kenya to study for what appears to have been a two-year post-graduate diploma.

While Thebe says that Ogenga holds “a post-graduate academic diploma in Economics from Egerton University”, documents in our possession tell a different story.

In the 1999/2000 academic year, he took courses in educational psychology, philosophy of education, methods of teaching, communication in teaching, statistics and sociology, curriculum development, contents of application in education and objectives and instructions. In the 2000/2001 academic year he studied English language, Literature in English, project and research method reseach (sic), college and school administration and practical teaching assessment.

When he sought employment at Limkokwing, Ogenga presented not a certificate from Egerton but an eight-year old recommendation letter that notified prospective employers that he had completed a post-graduate diploma in education. The letter explained that he “is still awaiting the official certificates to be released after graduation.”

His file at Limkokwing does not contain the official certificate. The letter is dated June 15, 2000 when Ogenga is supposed to have completed his studies in 2001.

The Egerton transcripts were issued by the “Fuculty of Education and Human Resources”.

Other than the hand-written certificate from the Indian Management Training and Research Institute, Ogenga has not presented Limkokwing with certificates from the universities his CV says he went to.

In her written response, Thebe admits as much, saying that the HR department “is in possession of all his qualifications that include copies of his transcripts” ÔÇô no mention of certificates.

However, she is satisfied that Ogenga is fully qualified for his Limkokwing job.

“I am fully confident that he is qualified for this job as Legal Aspects of Business discusses the legal implications in business and does not imply that one has to have a law qualification,” Thebe says.

How Limkokwing recruits staff is another contentious issue. Thebe says that the varsity “recruits staff through recruitment advertisements that are placed in all leading local newspapers”.

Along with her responses, she attached an advert that appeared in the Botswana Gazette last year but none for this year. Sunday Standard can confirm that prior and subsequent to that ad, there were posts that were filled without advertising.

Judging by what Limkokwing’s own students say, the institution that prides itself on being a hub of creative technology does not seem to have fully embraced technology. Last month, the students wrote the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education to complain about issues, ranging from inadequate equipment to incompetent lecturers, from an emaciated library to late payment of living allowances, from improper career guidance to overcrowded classes, to improper ventilation and to limited access to the e-library.

Regarding the latter, the Student Representative Council president wrote: “The e-library makes researching difficult because there is no way a student can store information to further explore it at home (it does not take memory stick).”

Then there is the issue of internship. The SRC letter says that “[m]any students who tried to get attachments were told that the Limkokwing students cannot be attached for the apparent reason that they feel they do not get quality education”.

Speaking generally about quality of education, Thebe states: “Limkokwing University will continue to nurture the mindset that goes beyond employability but focus on groundbreaking capability and industry leadership. The fact that we don’t take the education of young people lightly will push us to strive to produce global graduates that are tech-savvy thinkers, skilled, enterprising, adaptive, competitive and above all, citizens who understand creativity and innovation, and who will decide how Botswana transforms and reaches all its goals by 2016.”
She referred Sunday Standard to an article in last week’s edition of The Voice to make the point that they are not experiencing any problems with placing students. The article quotes Angela Chasha, head of the Faculty of Communication, Media and Broadcasting as saying that the school will place students in the workplace in August this year. Such placement is a requirement for students to graduate.

As regards minimum academic qualifications needed to lecture at Limkokwing, Thebe says that to teach associate degree students, one needs a bachelor degree and a master’s degree for degree programmes. Conversely, Sunday Standard has it on good authority that some degree holders teach degree students.

Thebe’s own department comes under fire in the SRC letter: “This department is doing absolutely nothing to counteract on the bad publicity and giving the stakeholders and the public in general the right information.”

Sources say that one of the challenges that this department faces is continual rotation of varsity spokespeople.

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