A year ago a story appeared in the Ugandan newspapers that caught my eye. It was a complaint from the owner of Kampala International University, Hassan Bassajjabalaba. The gist of it was that law students who graduated from KIU subsequently went on the fail the Bar exam set by the Law Development Centre. Thus they can’t hold the certificate of legal practice and therefore cannot practice as advocates of the Uganda High Court.
Fair enough for him to complain, but the reasons for his complaint were downright silly. He felt students who did not go to Makekere University were discriminated against and he proposed that more centres for post graduate legal training need to be opened. Clearly easier exams would be set and more students would pass the Bar exam and stream into the legal profession.
Now two weeks ago this same issue emerged again. This time the complaint came from the association of university law students or something to that effect. The gist of the complaint was that due to the increased number of law graduates applying to the LDC, the centre was now administering an entrance exam, which the usual suspects from privately owned universities failed. So they ranted and raved about discrimination and unfairly high standards being demanded by the legal proffession ( yes, thats what they said). And the solution was the same, open more centres for the training in the post graduat diploma in legal practice.
The worry for me is nobody is questioning whether the quality of legal training in the various law schools in Uganda is actually up to scratch. In fact private universities offer really questionable study programmes accross the board, but it all falls under the radar. However, for lawyers, they have to sit one levelling exam set by the LDC, and that is where to lie that university education has become has been stripped bare for all to see it for what it is. University education is basically a business, taught by inadequately qualified lecturers to large classes of students who have endured six years of a high sschool education that no longer prepares them for university, it only gets them to pass their A-levels.
Bar exams are tough all over the world and this makes sure that only the best actually practice as advocates. It is a standard that must be maintained for the sake of the general public. Setting up more training centres for post graduate diploma is fine, but the exam must remain the same, regrdless of what fancy new university one comes from. I am sure our learned friends will be the first to point out that holding an LLB degree does not a lawyer make. I hope the legal fraternity will stand up to the challenge of maintaining standards in their noble profession especially as I can forsee an onslought from the politically well connected entrepreneur who has a financial payday at risk if the law degree issued by KIU is seen to not quite cut the mustard.