The Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Vocational Training said in a statement yesterday that President John Magufuli has sacked the chairman of the state-run Tanzania Commission for Universities (TCU), Prof Awadh Mawenya, for failing to take action against "ghost students" in the emerging college admission scandal.
Minister Joyce Ndalichako (pictured) told a news conference in Dodoma that she (the minister) has also suspended the TCU executive secretary, Prof Yunus Mgaya, and four other senior officials over the same matter.
According to Ndalichako, the government has already expelled a total of 489 students at the privately-owned St. Joseph University in Tanzania (SJUIT), who were admitted despite failing their secondary education examinations.
"Those who have been expelled ... even lacked the academic qualifications to be enrolled in simple certificate programmes," the minister said.
She announced a nationwide screening to be launched covering all universities across the country, warning that any more students discovered to have been enrolled without the required qualifications would also be ejected.
Education has become a cash cow industry in Tanzania, with owners of private schools, colleges and universities accused of lowering standards to boost student enrolment so as to enhance financial gain.
The move therefore opens the door for scores of 'bogus' college students to be sent home if they are found to have irregularly gained admission. According to Ndalichako, many of them are even receiving government student loans.
She said the screening exercise will be carried out in collaboration with the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB).
Other TCU officials suspended over the admission scam include the director of accreditation and quality assurance, Dr Savinus Maronga, and director of admission and documentation, Rose Kiishweko.
Another TCU official involved in the admission of the St. Joseph University students, Kimboka Istambuli, has similarly been suspended.
The education minister appointed Prof Eleuther Mwageni as the commission’s acting executive secretary and Dr Kokubelwa Katunzi Mollel as acting director of accreditation and quality assurance.
TCU recently revoked the accreditation of St Joseph University in Tanzania after it was discovered that it did not meet established university education benchmarks.
But according to Ndalichako, top commission officials did not take appropriate action over gross student irregularities noted at the university.
More than 2,000 students of St. Joseph University are now to be transferred to other higher learning institutions with immediate effect following the revocation of its accreditation and subsequent closure of its two constituent colleges on academic underperformance grounds.
The constituent colleges are the St. Joseph University College of Agricultural Science (SJUCAST) and St. Joseph University College of Information (SJUCIT), based in Ruvuma region.
According to TCU, there were 2,046 students at the two colleges pursuing different courses. Those found with proper academic credentials were transferred to other universities.
Ndalichako said some of the students at the university were found to have only 'O Level' education.
“Most of them have Division IV, but yet they were somehow admitted to study for a university degree and were even given government student loans," she said.
St. Joseph University was founded in 2003 and received formal accreditation from TCU in 2011. The following year the commission gave its approval for the university to establish three constituent colleges.