The parallel degree programmes should be done away with.
One reason for that is lack of accountability of the funds collected. There have been issues about accountability in terms of the resources coming out of the parallel structure.
Parallel degree students are self-sponsored — unlike the regular programme, where students are sponsored by the government, which pays 70 per cent of the cost of education through loans from the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb).
However, the parallel degree programmes provide more opportunities to many Kenyans, who used to miss university places despite attaining the minimum entry grade of C+. Secondly, it stemmed the annual trooping of Kenyan students to universities abroad.
Thirdly, it not only improved the incomes of university lecturers, but also provided employment to many more part-time tutors.
Since the University of Nairobi pioneered parallel degrees in Kenya way back in 1998 and they were extended to all the other public universities, the number of students in the programme is fast outnumbering those in the regular one.
Absence of funds from the parallel structure is something that needs to be looked at because it leads to lecturers’ strikes, which have paralysed learning in public universities.
The programme is responsible for congestion at the universities and denies students from poor families access to higher education as it has made it expensive.
The programme encourages class society at the university. This is because children of the rich who miss out on direct entry into university end up being admitted as parallel students. While rich students who attained a mean grade of C+ in KCSE are at the university as parallel students, those who scored B- but missed a slot are at home.
The government boasts having made access to free primary education successful, yet it has denied poor families the right to higher education as it is too expensive for them.
Students in the regular programme have, in the past, complained that, despite having scored higher grades, they have been denied access to courses of their choice. They also take longer to graduate.
However, those with lower grades have been admitted through the parallel programme and they tend to complete their studies in two-and-a-half years for courses that take the regular students four years. The parallel programme causes a strain on resources.
Public universities have spent massive resources, most of it borrowed, to set up hundreds of satellite campuses to cater for the demand for higher education which surges each year. They have also hired hundreds of part-time lectures to teach the so-called “Module Two” programme.
Ann Ndung’u, Kisumu