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THINKING ALOUD: Kudos to JPM for fake certificates crackdown, but...

Thursday May 25 2017

Congratulations, President John Pombe Magufuli, for terminating workers with fake certificates. There is no such precedence globally, and perhaps you will go down in history for the bold decision.

Terminating about 10,000 workers at a go is no small decision, but it had to be done. After ghost workers, ghost students, ghost scholarships, etc, the thorny issue of fake certificates has finally come to a conclusion. I eagerly waited for the list of shame because as a medic I wanted to see if there were practicing doctors with fake certificates which would be a disaster, not that in other professions it would be any less disastrous.

Like the President, I have zero tolerance in this matter. The majority of Tanzanians are supportive of this decision, but there will be a few who will question your decision based on its legality. There is no need to get hanged up with the legal issues because as an employer you have every right to hire and fire in the best interest of the nation. Let’s not waste any more time on this but move on with the development agenda. What’s important is to create a system that will ensure that in future this is not repeated.

To use fake documents like academic certificates is a criminal offence and in an ideal world all those using fake documents and also those who received and checked but still overlooked because of takrima should be prosecuted for the offence. It is the compassion of the President that he granted amnesty. In a way this is a dignified way to solve this problem and put it behind us, let’s look forward.

Another very sensitive issue is that those appointed by the President have been exempted from this exercise. These are double standards since a criminal offence is a criminal offence whichever way one looks at it. It is grossly unfair to give presidential appointees preferential treatment by having in place different sets of rules for different people.

Furthermore, perhaps the President should consider on humanitarian grounds to pay the sacked workers their terminal benefits. After all, those who colluded with them by accepting their fake certificates have gone scot free.

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Another issue is about the quality of education. Prof Issa Shivji aptly commented, “Those with fake certificates have been sacked. What about those with genuine certificates but fake education? What about the system that delivers education that is below par.”

Albeit this maybe a very important point but some how it is a different topic that needs serious debate. I have commented previously about the quality of medical education in the country but will again reiterate since my discussions with senior doctors reaffirms my observation that the newly qualified doctors from both public as well as private medical schools are far below the expected standards.

It appears that the medical profession has resigned or accepted the fact that it is acceptable and normal to lower the professional standards. It’s a challenge that the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and professional bodies like the Medical Association of Tanganyika and Association of Private Doctors should address.

The onus to ensure quality in institutions of higher learning is of TCU but as we all know TCU was very busy with central admissions because simply put the admission activity is very lucrative financially. Now that TCU has been relieved of this mandate it may concentrate on quality but I have my own scepticism about TCU.

In other countries, all medical graduates have to sit for a board examination in order to obtain provisional registration and be accepted to start internship. This approach has improved the quality of medical education provided by the different universities.

Vice chancellors of the universities do not favour this approach because it exposes deficiencies in their universities but this could very well be a misconception. In the longer run the board examination approach will make the respective universities to improve their quality and bring the much-needed harmonisation of curriculum and quality.

While the issue of fake certificates has been rested, a much bigger debate on quality of education offered at institutions of higher learning is desirable.