THE team formed to investigate students’ massive failures at the Law School of Tanzania (LST) has uncovered eight key systemic and policy challenges, including poor infrastructure and absence of a special court for practical training as some of the major attributing factors.
Others are outdated national curriculum for legal education and legal training, low minimum qualification, lack of students’ competency to express in English language and poor students per teacher ratio.
Presenting the report in Dar es Salaam, yesterday, the Chairman of the Committee, Dr Harrison Mwakyembe, explained that the controversy had risen in the public upon the school’s result for cohort 33 in October 5, this year.
The result showed that out of 633 candidates, only 26 passed, 342 passed some courses and could opt to re-sit the exams while 256 totally failed.
This situation triggered sentiments against the TLS, with some members of the public attributing the failures to the school’s theoretical teaching methods, favoritism, sexual bribery, poor marking, lack of transparency and others.
According to him, the committee spent 30 days probing the issue by keenly observing the given terms of reference, where they received views from 141 stakeholders, met 46 stakeholders in person, 10 participants via telephone interviews and 85 through various social media platforms.
Among people involved were retired government leaders, retired judges, staff of universities and colleges offering law studies, independent lawyers, engineers and architects, medical doctors and many others.
“Some of the infrastructure at the school including worn out chairs, sound system, leaking roofs, ICT and air conditioners have been affecting the entire learning process.
“Again, lack of canteen and hostels especially for female students coming out of Dar es Salaam is a very big challenge,” said Dr Mwakyembe.
On the other hand, he pointed out that the court which was initially set up for students’ practical training within the school was still being used by the High Court’s Corruption and Economic Crime Division, hence denying students an opportunity to conduct practical training.
He suggested that the Corruption and Economic Crime Division was supposed to use the building for sometimes and then shift to give room for a District Court, which will give room for students to do practical training via an electronic system installed to the lecture rooms.
Similarly, they identified issues relating to students appealing against exam results whereby the appeal’s regulations grant 14 days to appeal against the released results.
But, students were claiming that such opportunity was negative since one is only allowed to appeal without seeing one’s marked papers or informed on questions one failed to answer.
In line to this, the timeframe of the appeal has been issued but not elaborated on how long the process would take.
Based on the above, the committee recommended that TLS focuses on the major objectives of its establishment including placing emphasis on moot courts, mock trials and simulation among other practical trainings.
Also, the institution should use the public private partnership model to construct a canteen and hostel within the school to cater for the needs of students, especially the female ones and people with disabilities.
The Chairman also suggested that the Ministry of Constitution and Legal Affairs relocates the High Court’s Corruption and Economic Crime Division and in collaboration with the Judiciary to introduce a District Court within the premises to help students get practical training.
As for the appeals, they backed the students’ claims that the process was a bit contradictory therefore the guidelines should be reviewed.
He said that the system of staying seven months without marking allows for faults, because of piling up more than 15,192 booklets in a short period while it could have been prevented.
Expounding further, he said the quality of legal education and training in the country was being managed by the Council for Legal Education, which has the mandate to tackle all the identified challenges but the board has long existed since 1963 without an office, secretariat and budget.
“This is why we are witnessing all these challenges, taking into account that the Council of Legal Education (CLE) which should be the centre for coordinating education and professionalism in the legal profession has not been empowered to do so effectively,” said the Chairman, stressing that it was high time the government intervenes to rescue the situation.
Similarly, they suggested that the Commission for Universities (TCU) should increase minimum qualification for Form Four and Six for law students, where Form Four students should have four credit passes including English and Kiswahili.
Also, they recommended that colleges and universities offering law studies should include communication skills as part of courses in the first degree and introduce a pre-entry examination which will be managed by CLE like in other East African countries.
Again, the team proposed the review of curricula, striking a balance between the teacher-student ratio and also ensuring all first-degree law programmes are offered within four years and agreeing on essential courses in the stipulated time frame.
“There is growing evidence of deterioration of education standards in schools and colleges, due to a booming number and every student seeing themselves fit to enroll at TLS…some colleges decide to offer the law programme in three years while others four years,” he said.
Receiving the report, the Minister for Constitution and Legal Affairs Dr Damas Ndumbaro pledged to ensure that they go through the 66-page report thoroughly and work in collaboration with the government to curb the problem in the face of justice.