According to the directive issued last week, students must obtain certificates of “good conduct”, indicating they have not been involved in criminal activities such as assault, fraud, drug peddling or abuse before they are allowed into the country.
They must attach the police clearance certificate alongside copies of their academic documents, passport and relevant letters from sponsors paying their fees, while applying for admission, to be issued with an entry visa, the directive by the Directorate of Immigration and Registration of Persons says.
It is going to get even tougher for students from the West African nation of Nigeria, whose students seeking education in Kenyan universities will have to obtain clearance from their country’s National Drug Law Enforcement Agency.
While it sounds discriminatory, the drugs clearance rule will however be sought where there is a suspicion that an applicant was of questionable conduct, clarified Kenya’s director of immigration Maj Gen Gordon Kihalangwa.
“Care should be taken to ensure the rules do not harm the destination”
The rules, which take effect from January 2018, were meant to curb incidents of foreigners engaging in criminal conduct in Kenya, including trafficking in drugs, fraud, rape and robberies.
“Some foreigners have gained entry into Kenya posing as students only for them to later engage in criminal activities; it is this category of suspect characters that these rules should keep out”, he told the media in Nairobi.
Good intentions aside, some in education fear the directive could discourage interested students from seeking studies in Kenya, a critical destination for international students in Africa and regional headquarters for learning in the East and Central Africa region.
According to Patrick Mbataru, a lecturer at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, the new rules could serve to make Kenya less attractive as an international destination within the continent, especially when viewed against main continental destination, South Africa.
“Kenya as a destination for international education in Africa is still young and small,” he told The PIE News. “While every country has the right to impose rules it deems necessary to cushion it from people with bad intentions, care should be taken to ensure the rules do not harm the destination, especially when it is up against a major competitor like South Africa.”
The country takes in as many as 4,000-5,000 foreign learners each year mainly in private institutions, and predominantly from the Eastern Africa region.
It also hosts the Institute of Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation, of the African Union-owned Pan Africa University which takes in up to 400 students from across Africa.
Previously all that was required of foreign learners was an admission and sponsor letter, a passport and payment of requisite fees to get a visa.