News: Jimma Uni. suspends two staff for production of “wrong and illegal” sociology module; ethics committee investigating

Partial view of Jimma University. Picture: Jimma University FB page

By Natnael Fite @NatieFit

Addis Abeba – Jimma University announced that it has suspended two staff members and will take various immediate measures regarding the “wrong and illegal” explanations on the history of the Oromo nation, which was provided inside the “Sociology of Ethiopian Societies” module. The module was prepared by the Department of Sociology at the University’s distance learning program, which drew severe criticism over the past few days.

Jemal Abafita (PhD), President of the University said, confirmed the university’s decision to Addis Standard and said that: “the university has a strong working process. Modules go through various reviewing processes as they are developed. There is an agreement signed by the university staff with the university for this purpose. There are criteria for writing and editing, including experience and quantity of staff needed on module preparations. Accordingly, we have not had any problems before. The current one may be a problem in the workflow.”

The “Sociology of Ethiopian Societies, (SOCI 2022)” module, which was published in April 2022 by the Department of Sociology at the University’s distance learning program faced major criticisms especially for the contents incorporated on pages 48 – 49, stating that “the Oromo were in the midst of a decade-long migration from their homeland in the far southern lowlands. The Oromo moved north through the southern highlands, bypassing the Sidama in the west, and into the central highlands, where they settled in the center and west lands…, some of which had formerly belonged to the Amhara.” Furthermore, the module was criticized for stating that “the Gadaa system is far from modern democracy because it does not respect women’s rights.”

Following a growing criticism on social media, the university’s administration responded on Thursday, 22 September, in a letter signed by the President the University, and addressed to the Vice President of Academic Affairs. The letter noted that the comments and explanations on the module distributed Department of Sociology at the University’s distance learning program did not reflect the position of the university , and ordered immediate corrections to be taken.

“The explanation on the distributed module can cause conflict between people and it used the law of academic freedom of the institution of higher learning illegally,” the letter said. The university ordered that the module should not be published further, and those copies which were already distributed to students should be recollected and destroyed immediately.

Furthermore it has announced that the author and editor of the module have been suspended from their posts since as of 22 September 22, and the matter will be referred to the ethics committee for further investigation and immediate decision. A thorough analysis of all textbooks of the University will be carried out to prevent such problems from happening again, the letter further said.

“When this matter came to the notice of the university administration, the quickest thing we did was to take immediate action and have it investigated. Although the matter is being investigated by the ethics committee and will not be discussed in detail until the investigation is completed, the matter will be investigated carefully as it degrades the quality of education and causes serious social problems. The university will investigate the procedures and take action. When it is done, we will make the results of this investigation public. We will use a crisis management system to keep the learning going until another module is developed. Besides collecting and disposing the wrong modules, others are also being investigated to prevent similar problems from happening again,” Dr. Jemal said. AS

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