If there is “Herculean” progress made by Addis Ababa University, it is in the number of institutes, positions and students. The university’s website gloats over the fact that the university’s graduate intake capacity has grown four fold in the last two years. The university has expanded its graduate programs, adding important institutes as the school of journalism in the same years. The university administration talks up such achievements, accusing critics as reactionaries.
Look closer and most of it is hot air. New schools are being opened with no capacity to sustain them, and under trained, overstretched teachers fill them. Most of the graduate programs are extremely poor in quality. And the interference in the institutes exacerbates the problem. Take two new institutes as examples. This year the university has established the Institute of Federalism, and Institute of Peace and Conflict resolution. Both institutes have virtually no staff. Yet they are supposed to start graduate programs in September. The President made the situation even worse by appointing his accountant friend, Gebrehiwot, as the director of Institute of Federalism. The institute is supposed to offer a hybrid (political science and law) program. The director has no knowledge of both subjects, or has no training and qualification outside the field of accounting. He was a finance officer of the university.
Other institutes are created for solely political purposes. The Institute of Human Rights, the President’s pet project, will kick off its work soon. Andreas Eshete has unabashedly stated that the objective of the institute is to counter the “false Propaganda” of international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and show that democracy and human rights protection has shown immense progress in Ethiopia. This institute is supposed to conduct researches and studies. Yet the findings of its potential researches have already been generally set. Community members who know about the project dubbed the institute as “A Human Rights Center for Human Wrongs”. Now there is a plan to merge this confusing center with the Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution
Even the university’s showcase graduate program, the School of Journalism, has deteriorated rapidly. Opened with the funding of the Norwegian Aid Agency, NORAD, it started with a relatively high note under its ex-dean, the late Dr. Assefa Medhane. Dr. Assefa’s death was a big loss for the school. Immediately, Andreas stretched the university administration's tentacles to the school. He appointed the lame duck, Professor Abiy Ford, and interfered in all aspects of the school’s administration, including the enrollment of students. Several students who couldn’t pass the school’s exam joined the graduate program regardless of their results. The school is now run de facto by government cadre Dr. Gebremedhin Simon whose formal position is Research Coordinator. The Norwegians are said to be so unhappy with the way the school is shoddily managed that they are thinking of ceasing to fund it once the first five years funding period expires.
Proliferation is not limited to schools and institutes. Community members say that new positions in the university crop up so often that people have now stopped to be surprised about it. When he wants to bring on board of his friends, Andreas Eshete opens up new posts and assigns them. Addis Ababa University now has three vice presidents and four associate vice-presidents with sometimes overlapping duties. And the president has a coterie of advisers. Most of the posts are occupied by government sympathizers. “The EPRDF used to control the university almost subtly during pre-Andreas days. Now it is open. He appoints government cadres to posts he creates at will. There is no institutional check and balance. It is him, him, him and government people,” one instructor told me.
The University community member learns about these appointees from rumors. The president doesn’t care to announce the new posts and appointees formally. The fact that the university’s website still states that AAU has two vice-presidents and three associate vice-presidents is a testimony to that.
(My next article will focus on incredibly declining quality of education, students and instructors)