DMI University accuses NCHE of unfair treatment: Calls for audit into NCHE’s dealings and operations

DMI-St. John the Baptist University (DMISJBU) – one of Malawi’s fastest growing private universities – has accused the Conduct of National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) of unfair treatment and unprofessional conduct in the way it handles accreditation matters.

DMISJBU Vice Chancellor, Dr. Jerin Leno, has since called for auditing of NCHE’s dealings and operations, fearing its actions could be a result of frustrations and jealous by some sections of the stakeholders in the education sector.

Leno is apparently reacting to the recent suspension of Diploma in Education and Bachelor of Education programmes for DMI-St. John the Baptist University in Mangochi.

Munthali–I am glad to note that the programmes at DMI are tailored beyond students acquiring employability skills–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times

Just as DMI-St. John the Baptist University was holding its graduation at the Bingu International Convention Centre in Lilongwe on Wednesday, NCHE released a statement, announcing the suspension of Diploma in Education and Bachelor of Education programmes at the institution in Mangochi.

The news attracted mixed reactions from parents, guardians and students who are pursuing the said programmes at DMI.

In its statement, NCHE cited the university’s alleged failure to comply with minimum standards, especially in areas of student admission and teaching practice, as the reason for suspending the programmes.

The Council further banned the university from enrolling new students for Diploma and Bachelor’s Degree in Education until all identified concerns are addressed and re-assessment is conducted to assure that the minimum standards have been met.

It also ordered DMI to submit an improvement plan within 21 days and prepare for re-assessment of the concerned programmes within 90 days.

The university is also required to prepare for renewal of accreditation of all the programmes, which were accredited in 2016 and whose accreditation period has expired.

But Leno fears that “that will never guarantee the University a fair re-assessment within 90 days as propounded by NCHE.”

Hence, he has sought the intervention of the Association of Private University in Malawi (APUMA) on the matter.

“It is also important that APUMA should advocate for auditing of NCHE’s dealings and operations,” says Leno in his letter dated March 25, 2022.

The letter has been addressed to APUMA chairperson and copied to NCHE.

Leno laments that NCHE deliberately published the press statement on suspension of the education programmes on the graduation day to discredit the university.

“You will notice deliberate attempts by NCHE to discredit DMI St. John the Baptist University. A few examples have been highlighted here:

1. The publication of the suspension of education programmes on DMI’s graduation day had potential to cause alarm to graduating students

2. Failure of NCI-IE to inform the public about the outcome of the inquiry in terms of reference based on what Mr Peter Chimalizeni published on 13th September, 2021 and what NCHE communicated as its TORs on 15th September, 2021. The general public is waiting for the Council to make a pronunciation on fake degrees, forcing lecturers to give high marks and having more expatriates than local staff. DMI feels that what NCI-IE has presented is a peripheral matters which was not part of the inquiry. This raises questions on who is pressuring NCHE to do this?

3. The suspension of the Programme without due regard for continuing students raises serious ethical issues on the part of NCHE. The NCI-IE Act does provide relief on such matters. Suspension of recruitment is fine but disregarding continuing students remains a question decision by NCHE.

4. On the publication circulating in social media, NCI-IE has made reference to other programmes on point 4 which have nothing to do with the inquiry. This has demonstrated the ill intention of the regulator. You may wish to note that it is not only DIMI University whose programmes were accredited in 2016 and 2017. Why only singling out DMI programmes. NCHE could have made a special publication for all programmes which have expired for the other Universities as well.

5. Use of reviewers who are not experts in Education raises questions on the quality of the report and its integrity.

6. Failure to take into account of factual errors in the report which was submitted by the reviewers remains a serious question to DMI.

7. Inviting institutions to interface meetings when decisions have already been preconceived remains unfair and unprofessional on the part of NCHE.

“Therefore Chair, we seek your intervention on this matter considering that the very same members with issues with private universities are still with the Council,” reads part of the letter.

In his letter, Leno chronicles the events leading to the suspension as follows:

On 13th September, 2021 Peter Chimalizeni a social activist on his facebook page published the allegations against DMI St John the Baptist University without verifying the information with Management of the University. In his article he alleged the following:

  • That the University was offering fake degrees by forcing lecturers to give pass grades to students who had failed.
  • That qualified lecturers with Masters degree cannot exceed five in number
  • That Indians dominate the teaching of subjects that could be taught by Malawians
  • That Malawians Lecturers who miss classes due to illness are deducted from the Salaries.

On 14th September, 2021 Mr Peter Chimalizeni having verified information retracted the article from his Facebook page with regrets and I quote “We Retract This News From Our Page, We Regret It”. The University lodged a complaints against Peter Chimalizeni with Malawi Police Service, Mangochi Office. Despite the retraction of the malicious publication by Mr Peter Chimalizeni, the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) opted to pursue it as expressed in their language, “They had been instructed by the Ministry of Education to do so”. On 15th September, 2021, the University received a query from the National Council for Higher Education that (1) The University was issuing fake degrees by forcing lecturers to give passing grades to students who had failed a course and that (2) The University does not have qualified Lecturers.

The National Council for Higher Education further informed the University that it will conduct the investigations at Mangochi Campus from 20th to 22rd September, 2021 with the above two terms of reference (TORs) as highlighted above. Chair, you will notice that the above terms of reference never included issues on DMI’s Education Programme.

The Inquiry was conducted between 20th and 22nd September, 2021 with the following membership:

  • Dr Ambulire Itimu Phiri — Acting Chief Executive Officer — NCHE.
  • Dr Adamson Thengolose — Quality Assurance Manager – NCHE
  • Mr Elias Selengo — Quality Assurance Officer –NCHE
  • Mrs Suzan Manyetera — Quality Assurance Officer – NCHE
  • Professor Lewis Dzimbiri — Chairperson
  • Mrs Martha Mondiwa — Member of Review team
  • Mr Yonamu Ngwira — Member of Review team

Inquiry team checked University policy documents, curriculum documents, senate books, controller of examinations documents and minutes for various committees as well as conducting group and individual interviews with staff and students. During the exit meeting, NCHE inquiry team indicated that they could not substantiate the allegations which were made by Mr Peter Chimalizeni and the publication was malicious and that the University should use law enforcers to prosecute Mr Peter Chimalizeni.

Chair, you may recall that without analyzing the matter, NCHE through its public relations officer informed the general public that DMI was being investigated and that NCI-IE will inform the public of the same in due course. That statement created an alarm in parents and students.

The University waited for over two months to get feedback from the National Council for Higher Education. Chair, you may wish to note that in October, 2021, the University wrote the Acting Chief Executive Officer following up on the inquiry and requesting for audience which until this day has never been attended to. Having noticed that the Acting Chief Executive Officer ignored the University, the University wrote the Chairperson of NCHE Council and surprisingly, just like the Acting CEO, the Chairperson of NCI-IE Council did not respond or grant audience to the University. The conducting of the two raised serious questions on what was to come and why the University was being given a cold shoulder.

On 17th November, 2021 the Acting Chief Executive Officer informed the University of a followup visit to the University that was to be held on 18 and 19th November, 2021. The letter was sent on 17th November, 2021 through email at 5pm for an inquiry which was to take place the following day. The letter was not explicit on what additional information NCI-IE wanted. Obviously, in the absence of clarity it was difficult for the University to prepare for the exercise.

On 18th November, 2021 went ahead with their inquiry at Mangochi Campus which commenced with the following membership:

  • Mrs Martha Mondiwa — Chairperson (VC — Hebron University)
  • Mr Lloyd Kambwiri — Registrar KUHES (Member)
  • Mrs Wasiri — Registrar Unima (Members)
  • MrE1ias -NCHE
  • Mrs Suzan Manyetera — NCHE

The university was surprised when it was announced that NCI-IE had come to conduct an inquiry on Education programme. This was a surprise because:

  • The malicious publication on the social media was not about the education programme
  • Formerly, the terms of inquiry by NCHE did include Education programme
  • The three reviewers above were not coming from Educational background neither were/are they serving education scholars

Additionally, the team of reviewers were unable to explain the genesis of the inquiry on education programme i.e. who complained and why the complaint was not made known to the University. Naturally, the change from original terms of reference to the new terms of reference raised serious questions to DMI-St John the Baptist University.

Despite these gaps and surprise, the University complied and provided necessary documentation to NCHE review team.

On 2nd February, 2022, the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) through the Acting Chief Executive Officer, wrote the University to provide feedback on its inquiries and invited the University to an interface meeting on 15th February, 2022.

In its report, the University observed the serious factual errors on the report which was prepared by the NCI-IE secretariat and submitted to Council at its 34th Ordinary meeting held on 16th December, 2021. You will notice that the Decision of the Council of 34th Ordinary meeting, held 16th December, 2021 is what is being communicated now to the public without taking into account the correction of factual errors which were made by the reviewers.

1. There was a mismatch of aggregated grades computed by NCI-IE with those from Malawi National Examination Board. The reference point is always MANEB hence NCI-IE decision could have been revised in line with official results from MANEB.

2. The Reviewers in their report had misrepresented entry grades into a bridging course which was corrected and NCI-IE has not taken into account in its publication.

3. The Quantitative supervision/moderation forms which the reviewers did not capture in their analysis were presented by DMI in their enquiry.

4. That the University had 22 expatriates and 55 local staff on full time which has not been captured was not properly captured in NCI-IE’s report. Also staff list for Education programme for Mangochi was presented to NCHE. The programme had 20 academic staff of which 15 had Masters or PhD.

These are some of the issues which were corrected factually at the interface meeting of 15th February, 2022 and in our report submitted to NCHE on 28th February, 2021. The Chairperson of the Council at the end of the interface meeting informed the University that the next Council meeting, Council will consider the new submission and make an appropriate decision.

“To the surprise of the university, the Council in its the current publication is making reference to its 34th Ordinary Meeting which took place on 16th December, 2022 before our submission and before the interface meeting. When DMI checked with NCHE, the university was duly informed that the next Council meeting will be held on 30th March, 2022 where this matter will be concluded in view of the corrected information,” stresses Leno.

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boma lenileni
boma lenileni
1 month ago

Very well argued , well presented and chronologically written.. you have a point DMI

Luke
Luke
1 month ago

Who doesn’t know that Catholics offer best education here in Malawi?

Eluby
Eluby
1 month ago

It is very sad that NCHE is a true reflection of Malawians trying to punish other Malawians for the false belief that tertiary education is reserved for public universities and faith-based institutions regardless how substandard their programmes or lecturers are. NCHE Council is run by overrated Public Universities Lecturers who are jealousy of entrepreneurs. Truth be told, NCHE is an enemy of the people. Why poop on Graduation Ceremony of those who worked hard and paid their fees?

Charles Chanthunya
1 month ago

NCHE should be disbanded. It serves no purpose other than confusion and destruction of private universities.

Bruno Banda
Bruno Banda
1 month ago

NCHE uselessness

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