Lincon Rogers Mushabe is one of the students who graduated from Makerere University in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy.
Mushabe’s graduation after struggling with the course for 18 years raised eyebrows because he had 17 retakes. Some staff from the college of Health Sciences were stunned to learn of his graduation in newspapers, a day to the graduation that took place on February 22, 2017. A discontented staff raised an alarm, which triggered lengthy investigations.
At the height of the probe, Dr Rose Chalo Nabirye, the then dean of School of Health Sciences, together with the deputy principal, Dr Isaac Okullo got demoted for alleged incompetence and inefficiency. While Paul Apunyo, the registrar School of Health Sciences and Fatuma Nakatudde, the registrar College of Health Sciences were summarily dismissed.
How it all started
According to authorities, Mushabe enrolled at Makerere University in the 1999/2000 academic year but was dismissed because of poor academic performance. Available records however, show that the student didn’t receive a discontinuation letter.
He only came to know about his discontinuation from the list on the noticeboard in 2002. As a result, Mushabe wrote to the then dean faculty of Medicine on July 30, 2002 requesting to be reinstated on the bachelor of Pharmacy programme. His request was granted but he couldn’t proceed due to medical reasons.
He later struggled to get reinstated on to the programme for a very long time as the institution was undecided on whether or not to reinstate him. On September 15, 2009, the then academic registrar reinstated Mushabe to complete his course. In his acceptance letter, the student requested the academic registrar that he is issued with his third and fourth year results.
On November 6, 2009, the head of Pharmacy department Dr Hussein Oria wrote to the academic registrar informing him that the staff under the department was not ready to teach and examine the student pending further clarification and advice.
On January 19, 2010, the academic registrar wrote back to Dr Oria clarifying the student’s status, but he was blocked from studies. During the Pharmacy departmental meeting presided over by Dr Oria, on June 15, 2010, staff members agreed to re-admit the student under the current system.
This was after long deliberations in, which members noted that the student had been away for a long time and that the teaching system had changed. It had also been observed that Mushabe had pending papers and that it would be difficult to teach him as an individual since it would involve many departments and more workload for staff.
On May 12, 2014, the University Council approved the “University Policy on Registration and Completion of University Programmes of Study”. The policy granted amnesty to students who wished to complete their studies to do so.
On July 24, 2014, the school academic board sat and considered Mushabe’s application for reinstatement after his earlier rejection by the department. The board also recommended that the student completes his retakes.
Subsequently, the dean of School Health Sciences issued a letter on August 26, 2014 reinstating Mushabe. On October 8, 2014, the board tasked the school registrar Apunyo to crosscheck old records of the faculty of Medicine and find available information about the student’s results.
Since the grading system had changed, the department was advised to equate the course with the current curricular. Upon review, Mushabe had 19 retakes. However, staff were shocked to learn that he was allowed to graduate after completing only two course units.
In his September 25, 2017 correspondence to the dean School of Health Sciences, Dr Pakoyo Fhadiru Kamba, the acting head of Pharmacy department stated that; “Mushabe shouldn’t have graduated with the courses he failed and the courses he hadn’t taken.”
This was in response to the September 11, 2017 letter by the deputy principal, Prof Isaac Okullo to the department of Pharmacy to submit Mushabe’s missing results.
“The department of Pharmacy can only submit students’ information based on the file record and this was done for Mr Mushabe, both in September 2014 and in February 2017. Any demands to submit non-existent results are a directive to fabricate results, which is very unfortunate,” Dr Pakoyo said in a 2017 letter.
Adding that; “For the third time in the last 7-8 months, I have today scanned through the results file for the department. I didn’t find any unsigned original results. Thus any results being peddled by the school of Health Sciences’ registrar and upon which the college Examinations and Appeals Committee made decisions in the meeting of July 12, 2017 are fraud and therefore null and void.”
Dr Pakoyo told the Appointments Board probe held on October 5, 2018, that his department had prepared the graduation list, which didn’t include Mushabe’s name. He disclosed that when it was discovered that Mushabe’s name had made it to the graduation list, the college and school registrar, Fatuma Nakatudde and Paul Apunyo respectively insisted that he was validly added on the graduation booklet.
The then dean of School of Health Dr Nabirye convened an emergency meeting on February 21, 2017 involving Nakatudde, Apunyo and Dr Kamba. According to the minutes of the meeting whose copy, URN has seen, the members agreed that Mushabe be allowed to graduate as investigations into whether or not he had satisfactorily completed the program continue.
They argued that deleting Mushabe’s name from the graduation list without inquiries would expose the university to legal battles. They also noted that the student would suffer enormous damage if he was denied the right to graduate and it later turns out that he was eligible.
During the same meeting, it was further agreed that in case he was found to have any retakes, the degree be recalled. Dr Pakoyo was requested to conduct another thorough check and come up with the correct position.
During the University Appointments Board probe, Apunyo confessed to have entered the student’s marks in the Results Management System (RMS) and to have generated the second list titled 'Mop-up list of graduation.' He argued that he obtained marks from the old system, which he used to update the system.
Prof Charles Ibingira, the principal College of Health Sciences wondered during the probe why Apunyo hadn’t forwarded the generated graduation list with Mushabe’s name if he was sure there were results from the old records.
“Usually after results are discussed at the school board, all student lists are submitted to the college registrar to prepare for the college board. I wonder why Mr Apunyo did not include the name of Mushabe on the list, which he submitted to the college registrar. Why did he bring it after the college academic board?” Prof. Ibingira asked.
In his defense, Apunyo said there was a communication gap. “We had not concluded getting Mushabe’s information. He was an old case,” he said.
“I checked through the files and updated the system. All records are there. When old results come up, we don’t need to again call a meeting. We prepare a mop up. The dean then approves on behalf of the school board and the principal on behalf of the college board,” he said.
Appearing before the board, Dr Nabirye said although both the school and college registrar had insisted there were old records of Mushabe’s results, she denied ever seeing them.
“I asked Mr Apunyo to bring the results and he did not. He said he had a file and kept saying Pharmacy people were not cooperative. The file had a field report. I was very curious about this report. The results were not brought in even still. I forwarded the complaint letter to the deputy registrar,” Dr Nabirye said while appearing before the Appointments Board.
Adding that; “In my view chairperson, for me to be labeled incompetent and inefficient, I feel it’s not right. It’s not fair to me. I deny all the cases. I performed my duties. I reported the case.”
During the probe, Amon Muteganda, a network administrator in the Directorate of ICT Support (DICTS) implicated the registrars for accessing the Result Management System beyond working hours where they made entries.
He told the board that on March 9, 2010 marks of a student number 99/U/2076/PS were deleted from the Results Management System from an unknown computer.
“On the same day at 5:00 and 1:00, they changed the transaction, which was an update. They inserted the name Mushabe Rogers Lincon, Faculty of Medicine, B. Pharmacy, academic year, 1999 and they updated that the status was normal progress.”
The same computer was used to insert marks for 15 course units. And on September 15th, 2014, 17 transactions were made. This action according to the probe didn’t end until 2015.
In 2014, four years later, they inserted other course units. “I see logs at that time was not showing the IPS address until 2016 where I see there was an update ‘insert’ of the same student on Computer Apunyo PC IPS address 10…201,” Muteganda observed.
Adding that “There was another log of January 2017 at 5:28 and there is an update on completion date to June/July 2017, date of graduation 21st February 2017 and status, graduand. This computer was at College of Health Sciences. I am suspecting it was a laptop and it’s on wireless.”
Procedure for graduation
According to Makerere University academic registrar, Alfred Masikye Namoah, once lecturers submit marks they are discussed at the departmental level. Upon approval, the results are sent to the schools.
“The results are then consolidated and are presented to the boards of the school and after they have been discussed, they are taken to the college academic board for approval,” Masikye said.
Adding that; “After the college academic board has discussed, then the results and a graduation list are submitted to the academic registrar together with the minutes for processing.”
Masikye told the Appointments Board that they have handled similar scenarios before where students who are found not deserving to graduate are withdrawn from the list.
“But once the book has been printed, we cannot remove the name. It is a practice because we have timelines for printing of the books,” Masikye contends.
Asked if there was a danger of having unqualified people like Mushabe in the field, Dr Pakoyo said the student "is dangerous to the public" since pharmacy is a core area in the medical sector.
“We train people who make medicines. If medicines are not made well, you die. You don’t heal or you get sick. They assess the quality of medicines and they dispense them among other roles. Modern pharmacists give advice to clinicians. He is dangerous out there,” Dr Pakoyo confessed.
In conclusion, the University Appointments Board found Dr Okullo guilty of failing to pay attention to procedures/ polices while handling the student’s case. The verdict was to relieve him of his academic leadership as deputy principal effective Monday October 8, 2018.
The board observed that Dr Nabirye, just like Dr Okullo was negligent and didn’t pay attention to procedures and policies and relieved her of her academic leadership duties on the same day.
It was also ruled that while serving as a senior administrative assistant, Apunyo had unauthorized access to the system and altered sensitive information without permission and acted in unprofessional and unethical manner.