Kampala. The Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister, Gen Kahinda Otafiire, has opposed pre-entry exams for the bar course and suggested the postgraduate bar course offered by the Law Development Centre (LDC) be made two years instead of the current nine months.
“If you think LDC training is not enough, let us make it two years,” he said in response to MPs’ concerns that without pre-entry exams for the bar course, LDC alone would not ensure quality assurance.
Mr Otafiire, who was appearing before the House Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, said it is unfair to deny persons who completed a four-year bachelor of Laws course an opportunity to enroll for the postgraduate diploma in law.
“It is dangerously stupid; it is very unfair. If we think there is need for better training, better quality, let us make LDC two years,” Gen Otafiire added.
He said since the pre-entry exams for the bar course was not meant to be a permanent fixture, ‘we could have second thoughts about it’.
Mr Jacob Oboth-Oboth, the chairperson of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, said: ‘I have not been convinced that pre-entry is good for this country. The general ruling of this committee is to ask you to shift that policy; it has outlived its usefulness.”
Dr Daniel Ruhweza, a lecturer at Makerere Univesity School of Law, said it is important to take note of all the factors that feed quality.
“I have been teaching for a while. Students, generally, struggle with academics. Students also fail. The assumption that when someone sits the LDC pre-entry exam will mean an automatic pass is erroneous because sometimes the people who have finally passed have tried to re-sit exams for many times,” Dr Ruhweza said.
He added: “So, a four-year course of law might be completed in six years… So the assumption that because you have a law degree you have all it takes may not be true and so the sieve of pre-entry may have some grounds.”
The National Council of Higher Education’s director of quality assurance and accreditation, Dr Pamela Tibikikirra-Kalyegira, said the right to admit students sits with the institution. She said it would be good to have pre-entry exams at the start for all universities.
Mr Frank Nigel Othembi, the LDC director, said: “The pre-entry exam was never intended as a permanent feature of our landscape. It was intended to serve a purpose and be reviewed with time.”
Prof Frederick Ssempebwa, a member of the Law Council, said there is need for a comprehensive study on the impact of pre-entry exams to inform the decision of whether to abolish or retain it.