The South African Council for Educators has launched a probe into the qualifications of about 20 teachers who allegedly graduated from the University of Zululand and are suspected to have fake degrees.
The council’s chief executive, Rej Brijraj, confirmed that the teachers, whose names appeared on its database, did not appear in the list of students who had graduated from the university over the past few years.
“We gave them [the university] the list of people on our database for their verification and they verified and found that approximately 20 educators are not appearing on their list of graduates,” Brijraj said.
One of council’s main responsibilities is to enhance the teaching profession by ensuring that every teacher in the country is registered and provided with a registration number, which is a requirement for teaching.
Brijraj said, over the next few years, the council, with the basic education and provincial education departments, the South African Qualifications Authority and universities, will verify the qualifications of the 420 000 teachers who are in classrooms in a bid to weed out those who are bogus.
The University of Zululand has been mired in controversy over allegations that thousands of students may have bought degrees. The Mail & Guardian recently broke a story about a student who had a top position in the university’s student representative council and graduated with a postgraduate certificate in education in May. He was awarded a pass in five modules, despite failing all of them.
Final-year students who studied teaching at the university and are wanting to apply for provisional registration from the council have been advised to wait until the probe into the qualifications of the approximately 20 teachers has been completed, which is expected to take about two months.
“Shortly, we will have proceedings against them to see if their qualifications were in fact fraudulent and, if they were, they will be struck off the roll. The matter will also be reported to the South African Police Service because it’s a crime to have a fraudulent qualification,” Brijraj said.
The council was in the process of writing letters to the teachers to arrange meetings and to examine their qualifications to verify whether they are genuine.
Brijraj said his officials visited the university about a fortnight ago to discuss the issue of fraudulent qualifications.
“While the university is getting a bad name, we are very pleased that the officials were very co-operative with us. They gave us enough information so that we can even press charges.”
Referring to the issue of the suspected bogus teachers, Brijraj said: “This is alarming because, although the job situation is critical in the country, we cannot condone people getting into the profession with fraudulent qualifications. That is putting our learners at risk so it’s something the council and society at large will not accept.”
He said provincial education departments were also referring cases of teachers with suspected fake qualifications to the council. So far, about 50 cases have been reported by provincial education departments.
Brijraj said, after having dealt with the 20 cases, the council would check the qualifications of all teachers going back to the year 2000 when the council first started registering them.