OPINIONPeople Daily

Biometric registration will streamline higher education

Last week, Cabinet Secretary for Education Fred Matiang’i copied the media a rather innocent letter sent to the Commission for University Education (CUE), which will radically change the education system.

The CS directed CUE to ensure that all universities and constituent colleges register students electronically within four months. They are also expected to create and maintain biometric database for each student, by programme and year of study.

This was a necessary move, especially in the wake of terrorist attacks at Garissa University last year.
The directive also came at a time the University of Nairobi was on the spot over reports of thuggery among students. When police raided the institution last week, they recovered 25kg of bhang, blood-stained knives, pangas,  money-making machines among other criminal paraphernalia.

So it was a relief that the government is finally initiating strident security measures that will see universities install metal detectors as well as use biometric systems to safeguard universities.

But beneath the veneer of this security operation, the government was actually putting into place mechanisms to monitor the administrative and financial operations of institutions of learning.

A few months ago, I attended a function  at which a senior official at the Ministry of Education wondered aloud why universities are always asking for more money from the government to fund various projects when they are collecting billions every year from the module II programmes.

“Nobody knows how many parallel students are in our public universities and how much money they are collecting and how they use it. They have a carte blanche to raise billions which they don’t account for. It is time they reveal the number of students and how much they are raising,” the official said.

The endgame has finally come for higher institutions of learning who have been running obscure recruitment of parallel students, most with dubious qualifications in exchange for money. Once the universities capture the number of students under them, it will be easier for the government to establish the number of students in regular and parallel programmes and hence ascertain the amount of money universities generate.

Universities will not be able to do mischief with the figures because the students will eventually graduate so it will be easier to establish whether the number of graduates tally with the data provided by the university.

Besides addressing security and financial accountability, biometric data will help the government to establish the financing quota for every university, especially now that the ministry intends to fund universities depending on the programmes they offer.

A few weeks ago, the CS decried lack of reliable and accurate data on students from ECD to higher education. He said the ministry suffers data chaos because they have several data sets. He even revealed that the government or CUE doesn’t know how many students are there in our local universities!

This he said has hurt the government greatly especially in resource allocation and planning because the ministry has been using unverified data to allocate resources.

This has led to misappropriation of resources, especially in the funding of Free Primary Education, where school heads have sometimes been presenting erroneous figures for funding. He said the ministry will soon develop an Education Information Management System (EIMS) to capture learners’ data from ECD to those pursuing PhD. Every learner will have a Unique Personal Identifier (UPI) number.

The ministry has decided to start capturing this information from the top downwards. It is going to be even easier to achieve this now since all schools have been connected to the grid and will be supplied with laptops.

As for school heads and university managers who have been pilfering public resources, the end is nigh!
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