Judge orders university to pay student Shs. 17 million for delaying his studies

The High Court in Kenya has ordered the University of Nairobi to pay a master’s degree student an equivalent of 17 million Ugandan Shillings for delaying him from completing his studies.

The institution will pay Mr Paul Peter Makokha the amount as compensation for the five-year delay caused by his lecturer, Dr Robinson Ocharo, who was his supervising his studies.

Justice Weldon Korir said Mr Makokha had a legitimate expectation of completing his degree course within two years as indicated in his letter of admission but took five years due to delays caused by the lecturer.

“In my view, the mistreatment meted upon the petitioner by Dr Ocharo with the acquiesce of the university should attract monetary compensation. Universities should not admit students if they do not have the capacity to teach and supervise the students,” said Justice Korir.

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In his petition, Mr Makokha testified that he was assigned Dr Ocharo in 2012 as the supervisor of his project. Due to the unavailability and lack of cooperation by Dr Ocharo, he ended up graduating in December 2016.

He placed before court SMS messages showing that he sought appointments with the supervisor without success. At times, he would travel from Kakamega to Nairobi only for the supervisor to be unavailable.

He said he had incurred travel expenses totalling 1.4 million shillings.

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The judge noted that the supervisor never responded to the petitioner’s messages or answered his calls.

Before moving to court in 2019, the petitioner had in 2015 lodged a complaint at the Commission on Administrative Justice (Office of the Ombudsman) about unfair treatment by the university.

The Ombudsman, in a decision dated August 15, 2015, ruled in favour of Mr Makokha and found that Dr Ocharo’s conduct was unfair and unprofessional.

It also recommended that the university should put measures in place to ensure accountability of supervisors and regular monitoring of supervision standards. The university complied with the decision of the Ombudsman and changed Mr Makokha’s supervisor.

In his court papers, Mr Makokha had said that his right to freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment was violated by the school and the lecturer.

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He further claimed that the respondents caused him to make several unsuccessful trips to Nairobi in a bid to meet his supervisor and ignored all communication made by him to the supervisor.

He added that the respondents frustrated his every attempt to change his supervisor until directed by the Ombudsman.

The petitioner also accused the respondents of frustrating his chances of securing employment due to the incomplete masters’ studies and tainted his resume since it now indicates that he took seven years to complete a two-year programme.