A Kenyan college has been exposed after it emerged that they duped students into believing they were offering Master’s degree courses in collaboration with Uganda’s Makerere University. A student who had enrolled at The Regional Institute of Business Management (RIBM), Lucas Otieno Ondong was shocked to learn later that RIBM had no such academic connection to Makerere University and that it had fraudulently misrepresented its collaboration without the express authority of the Commission of Higher Education in Kenya.
Mr Ondong was later forced to withdraw from RIBM and completed his Master’s degree elsewhere. He claimed a refund of the fees paid to the institution and damages for breach of contract and/or fraudulent misrepresentation in court. The lower court proceeded to hear and determine the suit and delivered its judgment, where the court found RIBM had breached its duty of legitimate expectation and accordingly awarded Mr Ondong Ksh. 300,000 as damages.
Aggrieved by the judgment, RIBM filed an appeal, claiming that it was an agent of a disclosed principal, Makerere University. Further, they claimed that based on its Memorandum of Understanding with Makerere, the University was providing its courses at RIBM and that it was a mere agent acting on its behalf. In short, Makerere University was providing its courses at the RIBM without having to establish its campus in Nairobi or elsewhere in Kenya, and it represented Makerere University in the provision of the said courses.
However, RIBM submitted that the correct position was that the said MOU had been frustrated through no fault of its own. It contended that in this regard, Makerere University published a notice in the East African Newspaper rejecting its collaboration with the institute based on unexplained external forces, which led to a misunderstanding between it and Makerere University. On whether they should refund the fees paid, RIBM submitted that there was never any understanding that once a student decided to leave the institution, his money would be refunded; rather, all fees paid were non-refundable.
The court discovered that RIBM was required to receive accreditation from the Commission of Higher Education before implementing the MOU between itself and Makerere, which it had not. Further, the RIBM had never been accredited for an MBA course. Accordingly, the RIBM had fraudulently misrepresented its collaboration with Makerere University to him.
A ruling by Judge Aleem Vishram on October 5, 2023, reads “In short, based on the evidence on record, I am persuaded that the appellant was not licensed to provide the MBA course it offered at Makerere University at the time the respondent was enrolled in the course”. The judge noted “To my mind, in the absence of a license from the appropriate statutory and regulatory licensing body, the entire MOU between the appellant and Makerere was an illegality”.
The final order reads, “The consequence thereof is that the appellant misrepresented to the respondent that it could lawfully facilitate his enrollment at Makerere University to pursue his study in the MBA course when it simply had no legal authority to do so at the time. Based on the reasons stated above, I find that the appeal is without merit, and the same is accordingly dismissed”.