South Africa

Africa, South Africa

AmaBhungane: Degrees of deception uncovered in alleged bogus university

AmaBhungane: Degrees of deception uncovered in alleged bogus university

Botho University, a private college in Botswana specialising in business and IT education, has fired two lecturers after discovering that they obtained their doctoral degrees from a “university” apparently based in the wilds of the Northern Cape. By QUEEN MOSARWE and LAWRENCE SERETSE for INK and AMABHUNGANE.

The institution in question is the New World Mission Dunamis International University (NWMD), which claims on its website to be based in Cape Town but offers no address.

However, a source in the Botswana Qualifications Authority said its application to the authority gave its address as “Globbershoop” – apparently a misspelling of the remote Northern Cape town of Groblershoop. According to South Africa’s most recent census, Groblershoop has a population of about 5,000.

In its list of private educational institutions, updated in August 2016, South Africa’s department of higher education and training brands the organisation as “a complete fraud”.

In the United States, the Michigan Civil Service Commission has said that NWMD’s degrees do not satisfy the educational requirements indicated for job specifications.

This emerged from an investigation by the Botswana Gazette newspaper and the Gaborone-based INK Centre for Investigative Journalism.

Botho pro-vice chancellor Lucky Moahi confirmed that business science lecturers Stanley Thuku Waithaka and Busisiwe Ndlovu were employed on the strength of PhD degrees from NWMD.

He added: “However, in July 2016, when we were alerted to the fact that the … institution was not approved by the regulators, we immediately took the necessary action and have since terminated their contracts of employment …”

The source said Ndlovu received two doctoral degrees in one year, 2012, from the alleged learning institution.

The source also revealed that NWMD claimed to have premises in Putney in London’s SW15 but did not provide a full address. According to 2011 statistics, the SW15 postal district contains 25,000 households and has a population of 60,000.

Its website says that admission and registration requirements are inseparably linked “with God’s purpose”.

We therefore evaluate your application based on your spiritual testimony of your willingness to lay down your life to a be a testimony for the Lord,” it says.

It offers a “fast-track programme” that allows students to complete their degrees in a shorter time. Using this programme students can earn a first degree for $300 or R2,500.

However, it adds that “some qualifications may not be recognised by your country of governmental departments” and warns that “employers and others have got the right to reject your qualifications and that this is not our responsibility”.

A BA programme costs R3,000 or R3,500, and an MA degree R4,000 or R4,500.

Ndlovu, whose student number was 29-140-245, enrolled for a PhD at NWMD in 2010 “majoring in leadership, business administration”, and graduated in June 2013. He also has an MBA from an institution called the National University of Science and Technology.

Ndlovu did not respond to questions sent to him three weeks ago.

Documents show that Waithaka “enrolled” for a PhD at about the same time as Ndlovu and graduated with two PhDs, in business studies and business administration, in 2012. It takes an average of between three and five years to complete a PhD at a conventional university.

The fact that Botho employed the two unqualified lecturers for several years has raised questions about its recruitment and verification processes.

The institution’s head of “employability and development”, Preya Iyer, said the university relies on Securitas and InfoTrack to screen the qualifications of its academic staff members.

Botho said the two lecturers are still employed by Botho but are serving out notice periods.

Meanwhile, the INK/Botswana Gazette investigation also raised questions about the qualifications of Andrew Anyona, a Kenyan-born business lecturer at the Botswana Accountancy College.

Anyona acquired a PhD in 2010 from an outfit calling itself the Northern Ireland Institute of Business and Technology (British) – NIIBT.

On the internet, the NIIBT gives its address as Premier Business, 20 Adelaide Street, Belfast, Northern Ireland. However, a Google Earth search of this address goes to a lottery centre.

In an online posting, Richard Harriman of Botswana’s Consumer Watchdog says the NIIBT does not appear on the company registers of either Britain of the Republic of Ireland.

Its Malaysian addresses, he says, are “no more than post boxes”.

Harriman comments that the Irish companies register records the existence of the Royal Ireland Institute of Business and Technology, but that this was dissolved in 2012.

The Botswana Gazette asked Anyona to supply a copy of his doctoral thesis. He responded that he was not obliged to make the thesis public.

In response to questions about his doctoral degree, he said that the Botswana Qualifications Authority had successfully evaluated his qualifications and that they were recognised in Kenya.

He added that the degree was recognised by the Open University Europa, a member of the International Council for Open and Distance Education.

Asked about Anyona’s qualifications, BAC spokesperson Mpho Mokgosi said: “We are constrained in discussing employee personal information … and trust that he is best placed to respond to questions of personal nature.”

Mokgosi said the BAC followed a rigorous and transparent recruitment process when it employed the Kenyan in 2012, and that BAC lecturers are accredited by the Botswana Qualifications Authority and “partner universities” in the UK.

Our partner universities also subscribe to international higher learning bodies which accredits all lecturer qualifications attained internationally,” he said.

According to the the UK’s education department, as many as 200 institutions offer bogus degrees in Britain.

INK and the Botswana Gazette could find no evidence that NIIBT has a campus in Gambia, as claimed on its website. It did not respond to media questions sent a month ago.

NIIBT makes a point of providing testimonials on its website. In one of these, Anyona comments: “My workplace status (at BAC) has changed with added responsibility and respect from my colleagues. I can now face the future business consultancy … with the prestigious award of a NIIBT British PhD degree in business management.”

The Botswana authority monitors and audits all accredited institutions to ensure “continued compliance” in accordance with the law, but has never revoked the licence of a major institution on grounds that it employs lecturers with qualifications from “degree mills”.

In 2007 a British court jailed Gene Morrison, a fake police criminologist who claimed to have degree certificates from Rochville University, among other institutions. DM

Additional reporting by Olebile Letlole

INK Centre for Investigative Journalism produced this story in collaboration with Botswana Gazette newspaper and the amaBhungane Centre of Investigative Journalism.

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