Absentee supervisors killing the intention of internship

By Desire Mbabaali

I met with my supervisor a week before I started internship. We exchanged contacts and she assured me she would come to my place of attachment the first week I started. This is so far my second week of internship but she has never even found out whether I reported,” Suzanne, a second year Bachelor of Library and Information Science student from Makerere University says.

This, however, comes as no surprise to many students. During internship, only the lucky ones hear from or see the supervisors in the field for at least three times, whereas some do not get supervised at all.

For the four universities and institutions of higher learning we talked to, (Makerere University, Kampala International University, Bishop Stuart University, Mbarara and Management Training and Advisory Centre), supervision is done in such a way that the institution assigns a certain number of students to one or two lecturers who are responsible for monitoring, assessing and awarding marks.

“The supervisor is supposed to supervise their students twice in the six – eight weeks of internship and closely work with the field supervisor to ensure that the students benefit from the internship,” Abdon Aruho Rutega, academic registrar, Bishop Stuart University, Mbarara explains.

However, what is frustrating to some students is the failure of supervisors to turn up.
Frederick Musoke, a third year Business Administration student at Makerere University Business School says he last heard from his supervisor the day they exchanged contacts.

“Ideally, he was supposed to be in touch with his supervisor at the place of internship, but they never talked. He was also supposed to come on several occasions to assess my progress but that, too, never happened,” he recalls.

Musoke’s supervisor only came once at the end of his internship. “When he came, he had a chat with my mentor and that was all,” he says.

He further adds that though a student can be assessed basing on their internship report submitted to the supervisor, this can be manipulated.

“The report can be manipulated by the student even when they have not done any actual work. I can say that supervision needs to be reconsidered and enforced because to me, it felt like I was not supervised and thus I have no idea how the supervisor awarded the internship marks to me in the end,” he says.

The solution
However, away from awarding marks, some students face challenges in the field that requires the attention of their supervisor. “Sometimes you need guidance on how to go about some issues such as problems with the organisation you are placed and need someone to confide in. If supervisors are not available to offer such kind of help, it robs the internship of its benefits,” says Musoke.

Nevertheless, it is not all gloom. Juliet Kabatooro, a third year student of Information Technology at International University of East Africa, says her supervisor worked closely with her field supervisor to ensure she kept up to the standards.

“From a personal initiative, both my supervisors (university and field supervisors) and three fellow interns created a WhatsApp group that we used to monitor each other. On that platform, we had to report what plans/activities we were executing every day, and in many if not all cases, you would not lie about it because your field supervisor was on the same platform to see and report whether one executed what they said they would be doing,” she explains.

Kabatooro feels this provided a platform for close monitoring and supervision. “We also used the platform to learn a number of things from the supervisors but also from fellow students. Whenever you encountered a challenge in the field, you could ask a question on the group and usually get instant feedback,” she recalls.

Her supervisor also came at her place of internship three times to get a report about her from her superiors and colleagues. “This kept me under a little pressure. I had to ensure that I did everything perfectly because I was being scrutinised at every turn,” she admits.

Student’s role
Sarah Kengonzi, a vocational instructor (Bakery and cookery) at MTAC, says the institution recommends students but it’s the student’s responsibility to look for internship placement.

“The areas of assessment include; the intern’s personal hygiene, proper execution of duties and responsibilities, time management, customer care and determination. This I get from the student’s supervisor,” she says.

When asked whether this is sufficient supervision, Kengonzi admits that they usually have a lot of students to supervise which limits the number of times a particular one is supervised. Rutega on the other hands says students go for internship twice; in second and third year to boost their confidence.

“A student is given a record book with details of what they are supposed to do during internship. It is also what the university supervisor checks when they go to supervise the student in the field. This is done twice; at the beginning and the end of the internship period,” he says.

If lecturers continue dodging internship supervision, students will continue getting less value out of the period something that will affect these students when they finally get employed.

Role of a supervisor
• To make sure the student reports and settles in their place of internship.
• To know and check student’s progress during internship.
• Assess the student throughout their time of internship
• Constantly monitor progress of the student both physically and academically.
• Receive an internship report from the student which they mark and submit to the university.
• Provide counsel and assistance to the intern in completing a set of learning objectives to be met during the internship.
(Rutega and Internet)


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