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Pretoria - Unisa has launched a blitz on bogus qualifications and is criminally prosecuting all fraudsters who have handed in false qualifications to gain access to the university.
Unisa spokesman Martin Ramotshela said the university had prosecuted 94 cases of qualifications fraud consisting mainly of fraudulent matric certificates over the past three years.
This announcement follows hot on the heels of the revelation that 50 students at the University of Venda had gained entrance to the university with bogus matric certificates.
Many of them had been awarded state grants of up to R100 000 for the coming year’s study fees.
The process to expel them was in progress a university spokesman said.
Danie Strydom, chief executive of QVS, one of the largest qualifications verification services in South Africa, said joblessness was driving the proliferation of bogus education and other qualification certificates, which shows little sign of dissipating, as employment creation remains a challenge for the government and the private sector.
“A degree, no matter how it was obtained, is seen as a ticket to the good life.
“On average, about 13 percent of the degrees that are submitted to us for verification turn out fraudulent to some extent. Often, the symbols are changed to reflect a higher pass or subjects are added for which the student had never registered.
“In many cases the degrees and diplomas are outright fakes. Many (were) obtained from degree mills in the US where for a few hundred dollars they will provide near-perfect fakes of degrees from any university in South Africa or elsewhere in the world.
“Sometimes universities cannot tell the difference between the fake certificate and their own degrees without verifying it with QVS or their own records. The only way to check is through a proper verification company like QVS.
“We have access to university data bases and for a modest fee we can test the veracity of a degree or a diploma within a short time,” said Strydom.
Lucky Ditaunyane, senior communications manager at Umalusi, the standards council for general and further education and training in South Africa, said the acquisition of fake certificates was driven by the desire to study further and to be eligible for work.
Umalusi would soon switch to a more secure paper with the organisation’s watermark embedded in every certificate, Ditaunyane said.
Ramotshela said Unisa verified all documents and academic records submitted by students who wanted to register at the university.
“During the 2012 academic year 24 students were charged with submission of false Senior Certificates and found guilty by the student disciplinary committee. All 24 cases were reported to the Saps. A total 94 cases were reported to the Saps for the 2010, 2011 and 2012 academic years,” he said.
He said since 2005 the university had reported 50 cases of fraudulent Senior Certificates to the Durban Central police station from where a substantial proportion of false certificates had emanated, but no progress reports had been received from the Saps.
In contrast, all cases reported to the Richards Bay police station, which was another hot spot for false qualifications, were handled speedily and efficiently, Ramotshela said.
“Cases are investigated and finalised in court within six weeks and progress reports are sent regularly. I am therefore unsure what the problem is in Durban. Keeping in mind that the majority of cases of fraudulent Senior Certificates received at this university emanate from KwaZulu-Natal, it is imperative that we see some progress in Durban,” he said.