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New Web Platform Allows Students in Kenya, Uganda to Report Corrupt Professors

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, May 6 2013

Screengrab from Notinmycountry.org

Students in Kenyan and Ugandan universities now have an outlet to anonymously report professors and university personnel for corrupt activities or ineffective and lazy work. The website Notinmycountry.org was started by an international group of anonymous citizens concerned about systematic corruption seen worldwide – they cite the statistic that 7 out of 10 countries suffer from corruption – that causes or exacerbates problems such as environmental degradation, inequality, lawlessness and poverty. Crucial to their site is the anonymity of the users, because fear of identification and repercussions intimidates students into silence. The founders, who remain anonymous presumably for the same reason they protect user anonymity, believe that a grassroots approach focused on holding individuals accountable for misdeeds will be more effective at combating corruption than a systematic overhaul.

African bloggers who have written about the site also recount their own experiences of abuse or corruption in university, and underscore the need for the anonymous platform. A Zimbabwean writer remembered his time in college 12 years ago: “People would pay lecturers to get the paper in advance. They’d pay for invigilators to look the other way or leave the room. They’d pay to have lecturers provide software projects from previous years (the software on floppy disc as well as the documentation, proposals and all) for the young corrupt minds to copy and paste!” He ended with the wish something similar would be enacted in Zimbabwe.

A native Londoner recalled her time studying at a Kenyan university: “one of my professors told us that ‘all homosexuals should be thrown in the sea’ because they are ‘un-African’… He also infuriated me by allowing students to speak according to their nationality – Kenyans first, other Africans second and others last. Our contributions in class were graded and by the time we ‘wazungu’ (foreigners) got a turn, everything had already been said.”

A report by Capacity Kenya and USAID, Performance Needs Assessment of the Kenya Health Training System 2011, found a disturbing trend of sexual harassment of female students. From the 2011 report: “There are sex engineered grades whereby a male lecturer will require a student to perform sexual favours [sic] before being awarded certain grades. Participants reported that some instructors requested female students to give in before they are assisted in their work and if the student did not comply, she should be given a failing grade.”

The report said that students felt like they had no recourse for such treatment and suggested the creation of a safe space for anonymous reporting.

Online criticism of the Notinmycountry.org has focused on the anonymity of the users and the negative frame “not in my country.” One online commenter who writes that he is a lecturer at a Ugandan university points out the potential for abuse of anonymous reporting. He questions the site’s ability to verify the anonymous reports (the website says it can verify reports, although it has not gone into the logistics). He also touches on the problematically negative framework of the name “not in my country,” which emphasizes negative feedback and whistle blowing and minimizes the potential for positive feedback.

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