Arrests Due in Probe of Fly-By-Night Colleges

We cannot taint all private colleges as some are abiding by the law and offering good-quality courses. However, these colleges are being discredited by the fly-by-night institutions which exploit people who are desperate for education and training qualifications.

Business Day

23 June 2010

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We cannot taint all private colleges as some are abiding by the law and offering good-quality courses. However, these colleges are being discredited by the fly-by-night institutions which exploit people who are desperate for education and training qualifications.

MORE arrests were imminent in the investigation into unregistered, private further education and training (FET) colleges, which has seen seven people arrested and 14 colleges closed down since it began last month, police spokesman Zweli Mnisi has said.

Despite years of publicity regarding bogus FET colleges, fraudsters continued to take advantage of SA’s poor and poorly informed citizens, said Nina de Winter, a spokeswoman for background screening company MIE.

The police investigation had thus far revealed 48 unregistered private FET colleges in Pietermaritzburg and Durban , 10 in Bloemfontein, five in Umtata and eight in Mafikeng, Mr Mnisi said.

Police had raided some of these institutions and discovered fake certificates that resembled those awarded by certification bodies such as the South African Qualifications Authority and Umalusi, he said.

“Fraud has always been a problem and it always will be. If it is not someone getting a degree without working, it’s someone taking advantage (of people who don’t know that private educational institutions have to be registered),” Ms de Winter said.

The CEO of MIE, Ina van der Merwe, said the news that Co- operative Governance Minister Sicelo Shiceka did not possess the master’s degree in political science to which he laid claim highlighted the pervasive nature of problematic qualifications.

Between 14% and 16% of curricula vitae (CVs) and qualifications presented in SA were in some way fraudulent, she said.

“I suspect that given the very tough financial situation we found ourselves in last year and the first quarter of this year, there might even be a slight rise in the overall percentage of frauds, because desperate people will do anything to get appointed to a well-paying job, even if it means fudging their CVs,” Ms van der Merwe said.

Since 2005, SA’s education officials received a total of 935 applications for registration as FET colleges across provinces, with Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape accounting for 464, 175 and 134 respectively.

Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande has held meetings with the Association of Private Providers of Education, Training and Development to discuss the problem of illegal colleges.

“We cannot taint all private colleges as some are abiding by the law and offering good-quality courses. However, these colleges are being discredited by the fly-by- night institutions which exploit people who are desperate for education and training qualifications,” Dr Nzimande said.
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