Better standards, better students

(Photo: Anteneh Aklilu)

Andualem Admassie is a graduate of PhD in Business Administration from Bulacan State University with a Very High Pass of my Dissertation.
He worked in different capacities for different governmental entities. He was Chief of Human Resources officer and Chief Internal Audit officer in Ethio Telecom, with France Telecom, Sofrecom and Orange, Program Manager and Consultant for Ethiopian Civil Service University. He worked as a General Manager of Enderas National PLC. He also headed Ethio Telecom. Now he is director of the Higher Education Relevance and Quality Agency (HERQA). Capital talked to him about the Agency’s activities. Excerpts;

Capital: How is HERQA utilizing Agenda 2063 to ensure a higher quality of Education?
Andualem Admassie: We are developing a continental accreditation agency and we are also trying to harmonize the curriculum which doesn’t mean that we are making everyone learn the same things. It means that we try and make sure people across the continent are learning enough and being held to similar standards so that they are able to work anywhere in Africa.

Capital: How does HERQA help students get a quality education and what challenges do you face?
Andulaem Admassie: There are a lot of challenges but we are a government agency so it is our job to deal with the challenges. Logistically, there were only 20 private educational institutions 17 years ago. Now there are 236 and over 50 government universities. This makes things a lot more difficult to oversee.
One private university may have at least six branches, if you multiply that by an average of 10 branches, you can see how it is very difficult for HERQA to travel there to supervise. We don’t have a car, we are still working with rented vehicles. Human resources are another factor, only recently the government allowed hiring professionals with no experience which helped us, if we wait for salary increases we can’t move forward.
The government has given HERQA a big mandate the parliament has given us a lot of power but it is difficult to exercise all that power. Our biggest burden is responding to private institutions who want to be accredited quickly. Much of our resources go to audits and accreditation. We need more structure so that we can make a difference in the regions. For example, if we want to work with schools in Gambella we need to do that from here. We are proposing a new structure which would have five branches in each region. We working now with regional education offices but since they don’t have legitimacy it is difficult to exercise.

Capital: I know you are moving to digitize HERQA, tell us about that?
Adualem Admassie: We are working on digitization with the support of the Ministry of Innovation and Technology. For the last nine months we have worked with eight engineers and I expect they will finish very soon. We are working with automation to make it easier to work with the accreditation and re accreditation system and to ensure transparency.

Capital: What is the status of enforcing standards with schools that fail to live up to expectations?
Andualem Admassie: There are many unfortunate problems. Some public universities are providing programs in partnership with the private sector. You would think this isn’t a problem. However, there are not any guidelines when it comes to this so when the Ministry of Education said this practice should stop most schools complied but some did not. The Ministry wrote a second and even third circular and even a video conference to explain that this type of partnership is illegal unless the government permits it. Finally, we acted against the schools, Jimma University is one of them. There is what we call a PPP (private public partnership) where there is a proclamation that they are obliged to prepare the project or feasibility study if any public university desires to work in partnership with private institutions. The project proposal then is presented to the Ministry of Finance where there is a board consisted of seven ministers and two from the private sector. This board will look at the projects and it can reject or give the green light. If it is approved then the bid will float. It is only this process that any public institution can work in partnership. But all public universities have not followed this practice. They just pick randomly and even override the government finance procedure. They use the public resources, they us the public degrees, while they just collect the money though the private account. Educational quality is a major issue. When university professors come to Addis, they are neglecting the students at their schools back home. They work at their expense, shut down the class and remain in Addis for three weeks or more. We have enforced rules not to harm the private sector. We need to empower the private institutions as they cover the government burden. However, this should be done under rules and regulations and procedures. Now there is a pending court case.


Capital: Some argue that HERQA is focusing on private universities while there are problems in public ones can you address this?
Andualem Admassie: There are many challenges in government institutions, previously no one was enforcing the power the agency had. We need to be committed to doing what the proclamation says.
The private sector is always complaining about a dichotomy between private and public organizations and this dichotomy has to stop. I care about higher educational institutions that is it! There is no pre-fix (private or public). We work with the Ministry and after that we will act, there is not any exception. We don’t want to see any dichotomy. We are 100 percent committed. We don’t discriminate between public and private sector when it comes to hiring. MOSHE has their own ways of inspection so I can’t comment for them but as for HERQA we treat everyone equally.