LDC: Bar Course remains every student’s nightmare
Vincent Aruho, 50 (not real names), acquired a law degree from the Islamic University in Uganda, Kampala Campus in 2010. Because his dream is to become a practicing lawyer, he opted to enroll at Law Development Centre to pursue a one-year post-graduate diploma commonly known as the Bar Course, which qualifies lawyers to become advocates. But failure to pass pre-entry exams at the Centre shattered Mr Aruho’s plan of becoming an advocate in five years.
“My plan was to do a degree and the Bar Course in five years but I was frustrated by those merciless examiners. What they did to us is exactly what they do to Bar Course students,” he said adding, “And since many of them run law firms they fear that we might become better advocates than them. That is very bad.”
Mr Aruho is among the 433 lawyers who failed the first-ever LDC pre-entry exams last year out of the 756, who sat for the exams. He and group are not the only ones in this boat. Hundreds of other lawyers who were lucky to pass the pre-entry test on the Bar Course also ended up failing.
According to the results released on March 19 by the Secretary of the LDC Board of Examiners, Ms Joyce Werikhe, of the 531 students who sat for the exams in December 2009 and March 2010, only 36 (representing 6.7 per cent) passed while 495 (93.2 per cent) failed. However, of these (495), some 381 students will have to re-sit special/supplementary papers while a total of 114 students completely failed the course after failing to pass more than four subjects.
Fifty students were discontinued after failing the practical bit of the exams while one student withdrew from the course.
In the 2008/09 lot, 485 (84.4 per cent) out of the 580 students who sat for the exams failed. Of the 456 students who sat for the final exams in 2007/08 academic year only 64 passed, while over 114 students were dismissed after failing the examinations.
The results of the last few years show a string of successive failures. Students, lecturers and the general public alike have been left to wonder where the problem lies.
Is it the students, the universities that teach them or the Law Development Centre? Although the blame is squarely put on LDC lecturers for failing to bring the best out of the students, management instead accuses universities of sending them poor quality graduate lawyers. An Education Guide analysis of the results shows that out of the 190 students Makerere University sent to LDC, only 28 passed while one passed out of the 39 from Islamic University in Uganda.
Uganda Christian University, Mukono which sent the highest number at 206 had only seven passing the course. Of the other universities like Kampala International University which sent 18 students, Nkumba University (10) and Uganda Pentecostal University (9), none of their students passed. The analysis also shows that only 17 students had passed out-right while 19 passed “by compensation”, which is far below the 41 and 50 who passed in both categories in 2008/09.
Passing by compensation means that the students failed to get the 50 per cent pass mark in some papers and examiners deducted from other papers to add where one was weak. According to LDC guidelines, it is mandatory to pass the five core subjects including; Civil Proceedings, Criminal Proceedings, Commercial Transactions, Land Transactions and Domestic Relations for one to acquire a diploma in legal practice.
Statistics from the centre also indicate that the last academic year registered the highest number of failures in the last five years, a trend that has been attributed to the degenerating standards of education in universities.
Mr Hamis Lukyamuzi, the LDC publicist says the centre plays its part but some universities had continued admitting students basing on the technical compliance yet they are not meant to offer law on the basis of any two best done subjects, which means treated as essential, third best done as relevant not the strict subject combination of yester years. “If universities produce students who lack the fundamentals of law it shouldn’t be blamed on us. We play our part as a centre and we cannot make miracles as some people may think,” he says.8
Mr Lukyamuzi says many students fail because they lack critical and analytical skills which used to be taught in core subjects like literature. “Many students today just cram things and don’t analyse issues, yet that is what we want here,” he said adding, “last year, we began subjecting all our applicants to pre-entry exams and we hope to register good grades in 2010/11 academic year.”
Mr Shaban Rukomwa, the Publicist at IUIU declined to comment on the failures saying the university top organs will first sit and assess the performance. “I can’t comment now because LDC has not communicated to us but when the communication comes, the faculty (of law) board will sit and assess the performance and present a report to the university examination committee, which will make recommendations to the university executive board,” he said by telephone. He said universities and LDC must together devise means of curbing failures rather than apportioning blame.
Prof. Joseph Kakooza, the Dean Faculty of Law Nkumba University said they always advise their students to read hard while at LDC and was shocked to hear that none passed. “That is shocking but I need to first find out from LDC management where we failed,” he said.
Last year, Mr Hassan Basajjabalaba, the chairman board of trustees of KIU accused LDC management of discriminating students from private universities, which he said had partly contributed to the high failure rate. He claimed that the few who pass LDC exams are given free marks –an allegation Mr Lukyamuzi dismisses. “We admit students basing on merit and when they are in lectures they don’t put on uniforms to know that one is from this university or the other.” According to LDC rules for one to pass the course, one has to pass oral and written practicals, with a pass mark of 50 per cent.
Although much blame is heaped on students the ill-equipped library, lack of facilities and absenteeism of lecturers are partly to blame. The centre was designed to enroll 120 diploma and bar students, but currently has five-times the number.