Education in crisis

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By Haile-Gebriel Endeshaw
Vice president of ‘Democracy 21’ (a US-based non-profit organization established in 1997) said that “100 million young children never get a chance to attend school while another 250 million go to school yet leave without ever having learned how to read, write or use basic numbers. The world is less productive as a result. This shows how education is getting unproductive.” Yes, education is getting ineffective. Ethiopia is one of the least developed countries with this problem.
The weekly private local paper, the Reporter wrote in its January 06, 2018 issue that Higher Education Relevance and Quality Agency (HERQA) “issued certificates” to over 3,000 graduates of various medical studies irrespective of the directive issued by the federal Ministry of Health (MoH). The ministry which seemed to be concerned about the quality of higher education in health and related fields took the measure some six years back. Among the detailed reasons for the revoke of accreditation by the ministry reportedly was that students who are being taught in the said field are not given proper practical training to the extent the standard requires. On the other way around students who are pursuing their education at extension program are not in a position to get the knowledge and skill to the level the regular students are believed to acquire. The weekly Reporter further stated that since “most of the attendees of the extension programs are full-time employees, they would not have [sufficient] time for any practical training which the field requires…”.
Medical studies need strict and regular follow ups. The fate of sick people falls on the skill and knowledge of medical practitioners. Trainers are expected at long last to save lives; or to bring about healing solutions to various ailments; or to treat patients with endurance and confidence… Probably the efficiency can hardly be attained in the desired and satisfied manners through very short continuing or extension programs that are bounded within limited time for practical trainings. Available written sources indicate that “a medical school or faculty must ensure its quality; and is accountable for the quality of the training it provides… the best way to ensure quality is by continuous attention to it”. I think both the concerned bodies like HERQA, MoH and the private institutions themselves should share responsibilities for the quality assurance of medical education in this country.
But to our surprise we read in the aforementioned weekly paper that the same ministry (MoH) which issued a circular to revoke accreditation for improper medical training disregarded its own regulation. It thus reportedly happened to ratify, out of the blue, the credentials that were handed over to the graduates! I really do not have any idea whatsoever whether the ministry had given explanation to this absurdity. It was stated in the paper that the private higher learning institutions gave the training at continuing program in the fields of public health, nursing, pharmacy, midwifery, dentistry…
Whenever I come across issues about quality of education or training in this country, many things come to my mind. One of my experiences is about deadly errors occurred as a result of improper medical treatments. I am of the opinion that the poor medical services are probably caused by improper education and training in the medical fields.
A gentle man, my next-door neighbour, passed away years ago after a prolonged sickness which was related to internal complications. What saddened many was the inappropriate treatment given in a local private hospital. The medical doctors said after performing two complicated surgeries by mistake that the patient should be discharged to another hospital for better treatments. This happened after a hit-and-trial process. The medical professionals simply stitched up the slovenly opened and sliced abdomen of the poor patient and kicked him out. Failing to live up to one’s expectations, losing interest in owns profession, job dissatisfaction, among others, can be taken as sordid reasons for poor performances in all walks of lives…
I would also like to remind my readers about an expectant lady who did not wake up two months after she had been given anaesthesia in a local hospital (story appeared on the weekly Capital, December 31, 2018). The unfortunate lady named Etagegn Bayile, a resident of Finote-Selam Town of Amhara Region, was admitted to the hospital for delivery case. After her long labor, the doctors decided to perform up on her caesarean delivery. Accordingly, before the surgery, the lady was given anaesthesia, which reportedly gave her a severe pain. After this, the poor lady did not take food, nor did she speak and show any body movement for two months. In a country where such silly professional mistakes are made, how are we supposed to see medical training and educations carelessly? The word ‘we’ refers to the pertinent agency, higher learning institutions and ministries…
A month back the Federal Ministry of Science and Higher Education in collaboration with HERQA organized a consultative forum with local higher learning institutions. It was stated on the occasion that some local collages have bestowed up on MA degrees after one- or two-months’ training. A senior official of the ministry said that of the 174 private higher learning institutions, 43 have been discovered to have critical problems. Only 46 were reportedly said to work legally. It was stated during the discussion that there are private higher learning institutions that are working without legal permission. Some others were also said to give regular education under accreditation granted for distance education. There are still others that have licences to run colleges; but discovered to teach by altering their names to university. There are also colleges that are reportedly giving trainings under licences given for the mere business of stationeries.
HERQA was established in 2003 with the general responsibilities of guiding and regulating the higher learning sector. Supervising or ensuring maintenance of quality of education, efficient staff recruitment, internal and external audits of higher learning institutions are the major tasks expected to be accomplished by the agency. Indicating its duties and responsibilities, HERQA pledged to regularly announce to the public through different means of communication about the existing status of higher learning institutions. Yes, HERQA claims that it ensures relevancy and quality of education or training that are given by higher learning institutions. But it does not seem to be serious in implementing what is written in words. Facts on the ground indicate that HERQA did not give due emphasis to the supervision of the quality of education in higher learning institutions across the country. It has not done regular quality auditing in both state and private colleges of the country. If that had been done seriously, the current problems we are talking about would not have been witnessed. What has it done so far to supervise these institutions? … It has put in black and white that conducting regular visit and making the outcome official to the wider public are its day-to-day activities. But has it kept its words? … What measures has it taken against wrong doers? What was it doing while many people, including government officials, were granted masters and doctoral degrees without properly given education and training? Is it not an authorised body to take legal measures against those who have been in various senior government positions with fake academic credentials? Aren’t there individuals, including government officials, who are still buying fake degrees from diploma mills? Who is more responsible to supervise these illegal acts than the relevant body, HERQA? Of course, we heard a week ago on local media that the agency started taking measures against illegal private higher learning institutions… Let’s hope this is a good start, with the saying “better late than never” ringing in our mind.

The writer can be reached at gizaw.haile@yahoo.com