Durban - The arrest of a principal accused of running a bogus college in Durban has left dozens of students shattered, and prompted a warning by education authorities to be wary of fly-by-night institutions.

About 40 students at the Institute of Business Management and Information in Anton Lembede (Smith) Street tipped off police about the alleged non-registration of the college after their suspicions were raised through an internet search.

Police spokesman Captain Khephu Ndlovu, confirmed on Thursday that the principal had been arrested on allegations of fraud.

The college offers two-week courses in office administration and also claims to train students to become call centre operators, bank clerks and tellers, cruise ship attendants and flight attendants, among other things.

Student fees range between R2 000 and R3 000, and students claimed the college “guaranteed” them job placements after their courses were completed.

Most of the students said they enrolled at the college after seeing classified advertisements in various newspapers.

Office administration student, Phindile Luthuli, said she had paid R1 500 up front for the course and the balance of R500 on Thursday morning, before writing an exam.

“I had written about 60 percent of my exam when the police came in and arrested the principal,” she said.

Luthuli said some of her classmates had became suspicious after finding out through an internet search that the college was not registered.

They reported their concerns to the Durban Central police, which directed them to the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education. The department confirmed their suspicions.

After the arrest of the principal, students were apparently refunded their fee balances they had paid to write their exams.

Another student, who requested anonymity, said she had spent R150 on taxi fares over the past two weeks travelling from Pietermaritzburg for her office administration course. She said she was very upset as her husband had spent a lot of money “for nothing”.

Security guard Bonginkosi Mdletshe, who had registered for a shipping management course which cost him R3 000, said he was shattered.

“I thought after this, I would get my big break and have a better life with my wife and kids. Now all my hope is gone.”

Education Department spokesman Muzi Mahlambi, warned would-be students, particularly those finishing school this year, to be extra careful of fly-by-night colleges.

“They must, before paying any money, ensure that the places they want to enroll at [are] registered,” he said. “If they have any suspicions, they should report it to the department and we will then get the police to investigate.”

Two years ago, six bogus Durban colleges were shut down by police investigators.

The Pretoria-based Special Investigating Unit, which had arrested the operators of the six colleges, had vowed to return to Durban to carry out more raids after poring over a list of about 60 private colleges.

In May, Plessi World of Wellness, an Inanda bush college that had about 4 000 students, was forced to shut down by order of the Durban High Court. This was after inspectors found that there was no running water, electricity or ablution facilities at the makeshift college, which was training students to sell health products.

In March last year the work prospects of hundreds of aspirant health-care workers faded after a crackdown on their training centre.

Promise Health Care Centre, which had a head office in Johannesburg and dozens of satellite campuses, including one in Durban and another in Pietermaritzburg, had been stripped of its accreditation status by the Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority. - Daily News