Employers warned of rise in fake qualifications in South Africa

 ·17 Feb 2024

The council which sets and monitors standards for general and further education, Umalusi, has warned the public about the rise in fake qualifications either bought from fraudsters or received through unaccredited private institutions.

“Umalusi is seriously concerned about the mushrooming of bogus [learning institutions – particularly private] as well as the increase in the reported cases of fake certificates being sold to unsuspecting members of the public,” wrote the body in a statement.

Such certificates received this way have no value because they do not appear in the certification databases of Umalusi and the National Learners` Records Database (NLRD) which is managed by the South African Qualifications Authority.

The three main assessment bodies accredited by Umalusi to offer the National Senior Certificate are the DBE (Department of Basic Education), IEB (Independent Examinations Board), and SACAI (South African Comprehensive Assessment Institute).

These organisations operate independently from each other, but they all fall under the Umalusi accreditation umbrella for assessment and curriculum dispensation.

“We advise all employers both in the public and private sectors to consider verifying their current and future employees’ qualifications through the verification agencies whose contact details are available on the website of Umalusi,” they wrote.

Umalusi is currently collaborating with the South African Police Service (SAPS) on various cases related to unaccredited institutions that have enrolled students into non-existent programs, as well as people selling fraudulent certificates.

Selling fake certificates

Umalusi CEO Dr Mafu Rakometsi said that, despite efforts to curb it, the country is seeing a large number of fake certificates “issued by scammers or fraudsters who are [often] not employees of Umalusi,” in exchange for money.

So far, 11 suspects have been arrested, including having the Hawks arrest an employee of the Department of Higher Education back in December 2023 for fraudulently issuing a diploma certificate for cash.

Unaccredited institutions

“Umalusi remains concerned about unaccredited private institutions that continue to register candidates, fully aware that they are operating unlawfully,” said Rakometsi.

These institutions distribute fake Umalusi accreditation certificates or fraudulent emails claiming to be accredited by the body. Some institutions provide students with false letters that bear the Umalusi logo, which are presented as authentic registration letters.

Furthermore, these institutions make students take exams using old question papers downloaded from the websites of provincial education departments.

To curb this practice, the body urges the public to verify if an independent school or a private college is accredited by them, by looking on Umalusi’s website.

Read: Online school mess in South Africa – what to look out for

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