By Aeysha Kassiem
The Bellville Fraud Unit is investigating whether an unregistered college has led hundreds of students and parents to believe its courses are accredited.
Three people have filed complaints against the Cape Career Training College and the investigation has been under way for about a year.
The college has said it has not been accredited since 2003.
It has blamed Umalusi, accusing it of making it difficult for private training institutions to apply. But the accreditation authority denies this and says the college applied only last week.
Annalene Botha, of Brackenfell, whose daughter Eljoh has since left the college, said it was "unacceptable" that they were led to believe the courses offered were accredited. She said she had paid R20 000 for her daughter to do a personal assistant's course.
"It is ridiculous. We took her out of the college in the middle of her second year and enrolled her elsewhere. We are not fighting this only for ourselves, but for other students out there as well."
Botha said her daughter had found out that the certificate for which she was studying was not accredited.
"When I phoned the college, I was told it takes time to get accredited."
The college website has since been removed from the internet.
Charmaine Burger said she had also been horrified to discover, two years into her daughter's personal assistant's course, that the certificate would be worth "nothing".
"Her qualification means nothing," she said.
The college's accreditation adviser, Stephen van Eyssen, said although the courses were not accredited, the college was allowed to offer "provider training".
"With Umalusi, it is a pain to get through the process. It is time-consuming for a private provider. We have made several submissions to them.
"When we applied again in September, they were busy with the matric results and said they couldn't look at (our submission) until February. We are putting together the relevant documentation."
Asked what the qualification was worth if it was not accredited, Van Eyssen said the college - which was 23 years old - was recognised in business and internationally.
He said Umalusi did not have the capacity to deal with all the submissions.
"If you have to see the amount of documentation you have to submit, it is like the Bible that you need to complete, from Genesis to Revelation."
Umalusi's chief operating officer, Eugenie Rabe, said the application received from the college was dated January 17.
"It applied to Umalusi for accreditation in the past two months or so. From the application form it is clear that the college does not offer any National Qualifications Framework-registered courses - which means it does not qualify for accreditation with Umalusi."
This also meant that the college did not qualify for registration with the national Department of Education, Rabe said. It appeared it had not at any time qualified for accreditation.
"Registration grants the provider the legal right to operate in South Africa.
"The department set a December 31, 2007 deadline for the registration of established providers.
"It must be stated, however, that providers are required to register only if they offer full qualifications (in line with the requirements of the national framework). If a provider offers only short courses, it does not need to register."
Despite repeated attempts to get comment from the department, none was forthcoming.