13 January 2013

Uganda: LDC Must Grab This Chance

In recent years, the Law Development Centre, near Makerere University, has been in the news for all the wrong reasons - with media reports of mass failure of students sitting the Bar course exams.

In recent weeks, LDC has again been in the news, this time with more alarming reports of underhand methods being employed to make certain individuals 'pass' exams that they otherwise failed. As The Observer reported on January 4, at least 15 lawyers have been fingered by an LDC report for having worn their graduation gowns over falsified marks.

This state of affairs is alarming, not just for one of the more respected educational institutions in this country, but also for our democracy, at whose heart the rule of law lies. For this makes the legal fraternity custodians of our country's democratic aspirations; and just like a beautiful house built on a foundation of sand would inevitably collapse, very eloquent lawyers who have profited from fraud do endanger the foundation of our legal fraternity.

It is, therefore, important that this week, a commission set up to examine the LDC report, led by retired Justice Augustine Kania, starts work. This commission, which also has eminent personalities like Margaret Sekaggya and Professor Frederick Jjuuko, has an opportunity to get to the root of the emerging crisis of integrity at LDC.

It is commendable that the leadership at the institution has spearheaded the investigation that resulted in the present report, and has taken some action against staff suspected to have been responsible, by omission or commission, for the fraud.

For in the end, if the attempt by individuals to cheat the examinations system is an indication of an uncorrected innate tendency, then well-developed systems, capable of detecting, catching and punishing deviance, represent society's aspiration to decency, honesty and merit-based progress.

The LDC should use this opportunity to plug all the holes so that it can reclaim its place as a key institution respected for rigorous and honest scholarship.

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