Jan 2022 edition

Beware of fake schools and colleges

Written by Sphelele Ngubane

Parents and aspiring students are being warned to be wary of bogus schools and colleges.

Each year, people fall prey to institutions posing as above board and reputable private schools and colleges, when in fact they are not properly registered with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) or the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET).

The departments urge people to verify the legitimacy of both the schools and the qualifications they offer. Qualifications can be verified by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).

Basic education

DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga says provincial departments have a responsibility to ensure that schools within their borders are registered.

“Any school that is deemed as independent needs to be registered with the DBE as a bare minimum to be considered as suitable for learners to attend.

"The DBE encourages parents to practice vigilance and be aware of the channels they can follow to ensure that a school meets the minimum registration requirements,” he says.

Mhlanga adds that when in doubt, you should contact your provincial education department and request confirmation of the school’s legitimacy. You can also ask a school to provide you with an Education Management Information Systems number, by which the school can be identified.

Higher education

DHET spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi says, as of October 2021, the department had identified 89 bogus private institutions of higher learning operating in South Africa.

“These colleges use a range of methods to mislead the public. The recent trends identified by the department are online operators committing internet fraud by purporting to offer degrees in 15 days, using the name and logo of the DHET. Most of the websites appear to be based in the United States and in the United Kingdom,” he explains.

Mnisi says when the DHET suspects that a college is bogus, it investigates the institution. If evidence of illegitimacy is found, a letter of warning is issued, and the case is referred to the police.

“We have filed cases against the 89 bogus colleges with the South African Police Services and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the US,” he says

Students can check a college or institution’s registration status with the DHET by calling its toll-free number 0800 872 222. Qualifications can be verified by SAQA at www.saqa.org.za

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