‘Fly-by-night’ school warning in South Africa

 ·6 Jan 2023

Students and parents should be careful of illegal or “fly-by-night’ colleges that do not offer official qualifications, warns the minister of higher education, science and innovation, Blade Nzimande.

According to the minister, these colleges are not registered as institutions of learning with the correct Sector Education and Training Authorities (Setas), the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) or other relevant bodies.

“These institutions lure and mislead future students into believing that these colleges offer qualifications that are recognised by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA),” said Nzimande.

“Illegal colleges offer compromised qualifications which are not recognised for employment purposes or for further studying,” added Nzimande.

He went on to add that the department has been successful in shutting down these illegal operators.

Nzimande said that while his department is working to eliminate these unregistered colleges, students often still continue to register and receive fake qualifications.

The minister said that the department is working closely with law enforcement agencies to close down on these colleges.

Students who want to enrol at private colleges must check the registration status of such private colleges with the department through its toll-free number 0800-872-222, Nzimande said.

“The number of colleges that are operating illegally has decreased tremendously over the years. The decrease can be attributed to our monitoring awareness campaigns and our collaboration with both print and electronic media,” said Nzimande.

The issue of fly-by-night colleges in South Africa exacerbates looming issues around alternative curricula at schools in South Africa, which was highlighted in a legal opinion from the office of the chief state law adviser late last year.

The opinion is of the view that schools offering curricula and qualifications that are not registered on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) are ultimately breaking the law and “defrauding” parents and learners who use them.

This has emerged as a key problem among various private schools and learning institutions that offer alternatives to the CAPS or IEB-registered curricula – with the education department warning that schools offering these courses are doing so illegally.

According to reports this includes IGCSE, AS Level and A Levels offered by Cambridge International, the GED offered by the US and a programme offered by the International Baccalaureate organisation – all of which are not registered on the NQF.

The opinion reportedly states that schools following an alternative curriculum other than the national curriculum statement (NCS) are breaking the law in terms of the South African Schools Act (SASA).

Other colleges

Nzimande and his department are currently geared to bring two new universities and a handful of colleges to South Africa.

Steps are being taken toward a new University of Science and Innovation in Ekurheleni alongside a new Crime Detection University in Hammanskraal.

The University of Science and Innovation will primarily offer courses in science and innovation, including STEM fields, including:

  • Data Science;
  • Machine-learning;
  • Artificial intelligence;
  • Blockchain;
  • Robotics;
  • Hydrogen-powered technologies such as smart transportation and logistics systems.

In August of 2022, Nzimande added that there will be developments and renovations to current and new Techincal Vocationa Education and Training (TVET) Colleges, at:

  • Vryheid Engineering Campus of Mthashana TVET College at Vryheid
  • Nongoma Campus of Mthashana TVET College at Nongoma
  • Kwagqikasi Campus of Mthashana TVET College at Nongoma
  • Giyani Campus of Letaba TVET College at Giyani
  • Balfour Campus of Gert Sibande TVET College at Balfour
  • Aliwal North Campus of Ikhala TVET College at Aliwal North
  • Sterkspruit Campus TVET College of Ikhala at Sterkspruit
  • Ngqungqushe Campus of Ingwe TVET College at Lusikisiki
  • Graaff Reneitt Campus of East Cape Midlands at Graaff Reneit
  • Msinga Campus of UMgungundlovu TVET College at Cwaka
  • Greytown Campus of Umgungundlovu TVET College at Greytown
  • Umzimkhulu Campus of Esayidi TVET College at Umzimkhulu
  • Bhambanana Campus of Umfolozi TVET College at Bhambanana
  • Nkandla A Campus of Umfolozi TVET College at Nkandla Town
  • Nkandla B Campus of Umfolozi TVET College at Nkumgamath

Read: Expensive school uniforms in South Africa – what parents can do about it

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