As technology continues to transform various aspects of our lives, the issue of forging academic certificates continues to plague educational institutions and employment sectors. The proposed Universities (Amendment No.2) Bill, 2023, sponsored by Mandera South MP Abdul Haro, aims to curb this rampant problem through the introduction of an online database for certificate verification.
Although the bill’s intention is to revolutionise the verification process, it falls short of addressing the root causes of the problem. Here are the limitations of the bill and alternative approaches to tackling academic certificate forgery.
The proposed bill, while innovative in its approach, offers a superficial solution to a deeply rooted problem. It addresses the verification process but fails to tackle the underlying causes of fake academic certificates. Rather than serving as a comprehensive remedy, the bill may merely act as a band-aid over a much more complex wound.
Data Privacy and Security Concerns
An online database containing sensitive academic information raises significant concerns about data privacy and security. In the era of cyberattacks and data breaches, the bill lacks a comprehensive plan to ensure the safeguarding of personal information. Without robust security measures, the proposed database could become a treasure trove for cybercriminals.
Technical Implementation Challenges
The practical implementation of a unified online database across all universities and colleges poses substantial technical challenges. To establish uniform standards that would ensure interoperability could require significant financial resources and time. The bill does not adequately address these complexities.
Potential for Verification Manipulation
The bill aims to prevent certificate forgery but it leaves room for new methods of manipulation. Fraudulent actors could attempt to exploit the digital verification system and potentially cause more harm than good. The bill does not present a foolproof mechanism to counter such tactics.
Although the bill embraces technology for verification, it fails to address the digital divide that exists nationwide. Access to technology and digital literacy are privileges not enjoyed by all segments of the population. Implementing the proposed online database could inadvertently exclude people who lack access to the necessary resources and deepen existing inequalities.
Ineffectiveness During Technological Disruptions
Despite the benefits of online verification, the bill’s reliance on technology also exposes its limitations. During technological disruptions, such as power outages or cyberattacks, the verification process could grind to a halt and cause unnecessary inconvenience.
Neglecting Socio-economic Factors
Academic certificate forgery often stems from socio-economic factors such as limited access to quality education and inadequate job opportunities. The bill’s sole focus on certificate verification overlooks the plight of job seekers who resort to forgery due to systemic issues. Voting for this bill might perpetuate the cycle of forgery by sidestepping these underlying problems.
To combat academic certificate forgery, it is imperative to adopt a multi-pronged approach that addresses the underlying causes and provides holistic solutions. Here are some alternative strategies that could be considered.
Strengthening Credential Verification
Rather than solely relying on technology, institutions could establish a consortium for credential verification. Academic institutions, employers and relevant authorities can create a standardised and credible system to collectively validate certificates.
Strengthening Regulatory Bodies
Government agencies responsible for quality assurance in education, such as the Kenya National Qualification Authority, should be empowered and adequately funded. A more robust regulatory framework can ensure that educational institutions maintain high standards and discourage forgery.
Quality Education Enhancement
Investing in quality education across all levels is paramount. There is a need to ensure that students have access to high-quality education. Educational institutions can instill a sense of value in academic achievements and reduce the incentive for forgery.
Strengthening Career Opportunities
The public and private sectors should work collaboratively to create more job opportunities. When job seekers see legitimate pathways to employment, the desperation that drives them to forge certificates diminishes.
Addressing Socio-economic Disparities
Poverty alleviation programmes and availability of scholarships can address socio-economic disparities that contribute to academic certificate forgery. These initiatives can provide unemployed people with real alternatives to forgery.
Public Awareness Campaigns
When the public is educated on the consequences of academic certificate forgery, it can dissuade individuals from resorting to such practices. At national level, there is need for awareness campaigns that focus on the long-term disadvantages of forgery. Such campaigns can point out legal consequences of certificate forgery.
As concerned citizens, our responsibility lies in advocating comprehensive reforms that address the root causes of the problem rather than settling for quick legal-backed fixes with limited impact.
The writer is HRD Consultant and Author of Transition into Retirement; [email protected]