How to Avoid Higher Education Scams in South Africa
On Tuesday, March 2, Kaya News broke a story about a registration scam that was thriving underground on University of Johannesburg Campuses. Three young women came forward to report that they had been scammed by a former UJ Student Representative Council member as well as someone allegedly from the registration office. The three say they have been in contact with more than 30 others who have had the same experience.
With the flurry of young people who are looking to study and are clearly desperate to gain access to the country’s tertiary institutions, con artists looking to make a quick buck are thriving. Regardless of the fact that it is at the expense of poor young people trying to get an education. Some more detail about the amount of money that people are losing is necessary. But also a little insight into how this scam is being conducted.
In the light of this unfortunate story, here are three tips to hopefully help first-time tertiary applicant avoid scams:
Application and registration procedure
In the past, the registration process at South African universities have often been full of turmoil – from stampedes to actual tragedy. The current prevalence of student protests, which interrupted registration week earlier this month across the country saw some students were protesting others being able to register while other potential students couldn’t afford the minimum initial payment for registration fees. This year, most universities are moving away from on-site registration.
There isn’t anyone who can speed up your online application or registration process for a fee. It’s best to follow the processes.
How to process payments
While applying and registering online, please keep in mind that that online is the only portal that will prompt you to make payment with regard to your registration. Even if you have someone assisting you with the online process, you cannot fill in the paperwork then give that person your registration money.
Each institution has a set minimum initial payment, which differs, based on whether applicants will be living in residence or not. Keep in mind that there isn’t anyone, until fees fall, who is able to financially reduce what the institution requires of you, as the applicant. If the person assisting you with the online process offers to reduce your registration or minimum initial payment, it should be a red flag to you.
The online process will give you the banking information you should use to make direct payment to the institution of learning where you wish to study.
When potential students do not meet the requirements for university entry or if they are going into a specialist field where practical training is the order, they turn to colleges: either private colleges that focus on specific industries (South Africa has a number of private colleges for media students) or technical colleges that give on-the-job training, there are colleges on every corner ready to take your money in exchange for a “qualification.”
But how do you, as a potential student, know that your qualifications are worth the paper on which they are printed?
South Africa has had a scourge of bogus colleges, popping up early in January, taking people’s registration money and disappearing by the last week of the month. When applying to colleges, keep in mind that all private institutions must be accredited by Umalusi, the education standards council. There is also the problem of institutions offering courses they are not accredited to offer. This means that while an institution may be accredited by Umalusi as legitimate, it is your responsibility to check whether they are accredited to offer the course you are interested in studying. Visit the South African Qualifications Authority website to check which courses the institution is qualified to give.
Dealing directly with institutions, and not middlemen, is the surest way to know that your application and registration is following the correct procedure. Never be afraid to ask to see documentation regarding the college’s registration, accreditation and qualification authorisation.