Website blows whistle on corrupt lecturers - Daily Nation

Corruption? Don’t try it at my university please

Monday April 22 2013

ILLUSTRATION | JOSEPH NGARI

ILLUSTRATION | JOSEPH NGARI NATION MEDIA GROUP

By EVERLINE OKEWO [email protected]

A group of 15 graduates have localised a global whistleblowing website to report indecent activities by university lecturers and administrative personnel.

Notinmycountry.org, an Internet site developed by concerned individuals, among them professionals and students who prefer to remain anonymous, is now in Kenya and university students are using it to expose malpractices in their institutions, including corruption.

Through the website, students can anonymously and securely rate the job performance of their lecturers and administrators, report corruption committed by these individuals, and also view and participate in performance rankings of academic staff and departments.

One of the founders of the website says the motivation for its adoption in the country was the extent of frustration experienced by students at the hands of corrupt and ill-mannered university personnel.

The strength of the website is the anonymity it offers to any student who wishes to expose corruption and other unbecoming practices.

Often, malpractices by university personnel go unreported due to students’ fear of further victimisation were they to report openly.

Another founder of the Not in My Country Kenya chapter had her examination marks allegedly withheld by a lecturer who had wanted to trade them for sex. As a result, her graduation was delayed.

The founders say that the creation of the local chapter of notinmycountry.org was inspired by a statement made by former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton when she visited Kenya in 2009.

Clinton said then: “I think there’s an opportunity for young people and for civil society to use modern technology to run corruption watches and reporting. Young people should use interactive media to report real-time allegations of corruption.”

She was speaking at a conference with young people in Nairobi. “What if we had groups of young people anonymously reporting all of these bribes with consequences aimed at individuals?” Clinton had posed.

The second inspiration, say the founders, came from former permanent secretary and anti-corruption activist John Githongo, who once said: “Corruption cannot be tackled from the top. It has to be confronted from the grassroots.”

The two perceptions embody the spirit behind notinmycountry.org. There is anonymity and it’s the students who are tackling the vice.

One of the founders explains why they prefer to remain anonymous: “For security reasons, we keep our identities anonymous to ensure that we can continue working to implement our mission to see a world free of corruption without constantly worrying  about our safety.”

The website, says an administrator, has the ranking details of about 6,000 lecturers and administrators in more than 600 departments in some of the larger universities.

Students visit the site and rate the job performance of their lecturers. They also report corrupt dons.

“We believe that instilling strong values against corruption in university students in Kenya has the potential of changing Kenya for years to come,” says one founder.

He continues: “We focus on universities because students are the future leaders. Corruption is so pervasive in Kenya that it has created a generation that is unable to change. The values and life of university students, on the other hand, are still forming. If students learn at university that they can buy their grades and bypass bureaucracy by selling their bodies, the resulting cynicism will persist into their future careers.”

According the website administrators, if the students are empowered to hold abusers to account, there will be a positive impact across the country for years to come.

The founders say the connection to the site is encrypted via 256 bit encryption (https) — the technology that banks, Gmail, and Facebook use to ensure that a third party does not gain access to others’ login information. This safeguards users’ privacy.

“Our clients are safe because the information they submit using our rating system will not be linked to their identities. Even the comments they post are listed under an anonymous and randomly generated username,” explains an administrator.

The information submitted through the corruption reporting system is encrypted, then transferred to the storage server.

The report is not linked to any contributor — not even to the randomly generated username.

A report is linked to an individual in the secure database only if the user provides personal details when submitting a corruption report. But even then, the text of the report, including the individuals’ personal details, is encoded.

The websites contains a list of the universities in Kenya and Uganda. A student who logs on to the site can select the faculty or department, institute, centre, or school of interest.

Users can also use the search box to locate the names of their lecturers and administrators and share the information they have.

The challenge facing the website founders is to obtain the images of university staff to place against their names for ease of identification.

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