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Six years in limbo — Elangeni Tvet college students miss out on jobs while waiting for qualification certificates

Six years in limbo — Elangeni Tvet college students miss out on jobs while waiting for qualification certificates
Students heading to class at Elangeni Tvet College, KwaMashu Campus. (Photo: Naledi Sikhakhane)

The higher education department and Elangeni Tvet college can’t reach a consensus on why there was a delay in issuing certificates for multiple years after students had graduated. Students say the delays have heavily impacted their ability to find work.

Students who attended the KwaMashu branch of the Elangeni Tvet College say they have lost multiple employment opportunities, after the college and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) failed for years to provide them with certificates for completing their studies.

The group of students (about 8-10) finished their studies in 2018 and completed the National Certificate: (Vocational), or NC (V), which is an alternative and equivalent to a matric certificate.

Tvet programmes are aimed at developing students in a certain specialisation with practical skills and knowledge, which is meant to provide a strong career pathway.

Gugulethu Mbatha, 27, from Ntuzuma township, said she had been sent from pillar to post since 2019 trying to attain her Level 4 Office Administration NC(V) Certificate and ended up taking another course at the Tvet college.

“I asked about the certificate for a long time after 2018 because I needed it to apply for jobs. After a few years of going back to the college asking about the certificate, they suggested I study something else.

“I wanted a better job opportunity so I agreed and studied. I got NSFAS funding and studied for 18 months [from 2021 to 2022] to become a management assistant,” said Mbatha.

Mbatha took insecure jobs, such as a call centre agent and a job in retail, while trying to get her certificate from Elangeni College. When she completed her second programme at Elangeni — a management assistant course — she secured an internship at the Dr Pixley Ka Isaka Seme Memorial Hospital, but Elangeni College still failed to provide her with certificates for either of her courses.

The internship paid her R3,500 a month and she was hopeful she would get a job after her internship but she was hindered by the absence of her qualification documents.

“The lady who managed me at the hospital even called the management at the college asking for the certificates. She told them they had positions and would like to hire me but that didn’t happen. After a while, it became heartbreaking because I lost hope of the internship leading to anything.

“I have family back home. I had to go back to the call centre because I could make a bit more money to support my family,” said Mbatha.

Daily Maverick spoke to four more students who experienced the same hardship in the job market because of the missing certificates. In late 2023, DHET offered the students a verification letter to prove they had completed their studies, which served as little recompense for years of missed employment opportunities.

Elangeni Tvet college

Students say they have lost multiple opportunities due to not receiving their qualification certificates after completing the administration programme at Elangeni Tvet college in KwaMashu, KwaZulu-Natal. (Photo: Naledi Sikhakhane)

‘Just stories and lies’

Like Mbatha, some other students who tried to get their certificates from the Elangeni TVET were encouraged to study a new course.

Another student from the 2018 class, who didn’t want to be named, said recruiters “don’t understand why you don’t have your certificate. They take the people who are prepared with all the relevant documents”.

The students completed their Level 4 training. Some received Level 1 and 2 certificates, while others didn’t have any documentation to show for their studies.

Another student said, “Our story is all the same. I haven’t received even one certificate. This makes me so angry, it’s been more than four years of the same thing, no solution, just stories and lies.”

Nosipho Mkhize* studied office administration NC(V) from 2016 to 2018. She was hesitant to share her story as she still hoped to return to Elangeni as a last hope to study another course and feared retribution.

While studying at Elangeni, she walked from Mayville to Durban almost every day when she had classes because she didn’t have transportation to school. She has a daughter who is her biggest driving force to focus on achieving her dreams.

“I completed the course in record time because I knew what I wanted. Every year after completing a level, we we supposed to receive a certificate but we only received academic records,” said Mkhize.

Mkhize said during graduation, her name and her classmates were not on the typed-out list of graduates. They had to write their names on the list on the day of graduation. While trying to get her certificate over several years, she was sent from one staff member to another at both the KwaMashu central campus in Pinetown.

“I even asked mom to come with me a few times hoping they would take me seriously, but we never got a straight answer on where the certificates are and why we don’t have them,” said Mkhize.

Mkhize said management at both the KwaMashu and Pinetown offices would make calls in front of her and then promise they would receive their certificates in the coming month.

Over five years and many visits and calls later, Mkhize and her classmates have been offered verification letters confirming they studied at Elangeni Tvet College.

The letter includes their marks and is signed by DHET’s national examinations and assessment chief director. The letters were only issued in October 2023 after years of struggling to get answers and making calls to the Department of Higher Education. It’s unclear why they received letters verifying their studies rather than certificates.

Students have waited for their certificates for over 6 years after graduating at Elangeni Tvet College. (Photo: Naledi Sikhakhane)

‘Please bear with us’

In an email to affected students in 2022, Faith Bonisiwe Ngema, deputy principal of Elangeni Tvet College, wrote: “Please note our exam section personnel went to Pretoria last month to make a follow-up on this matter, along with the other outstanding certificates and results.

“DHET promised to include these outstanding certificates with the mop-up process which is expected to be concluded before the end of April (2023). I must say though that this matter has taken too long to conclude. As a college we have been making follow-ups for the past two years, please bear with us,” said Ngema.

In a call with Daily Maverick, Ngema said the certificates were issued in October 2023 but the students had failed to collect them. Daily Maverick established that while the certificates have not been issued, she was referring to the verification letters issued by DHET.

When Daily Maverick tried to question Ngema further on why it had taken so long for the college and DHET to issue documentation recognising the students’ studies, Ngema said she wouldn’t answer any more questions and referred other queries to DHET.

DHET’s communications team responded to Daily Maverick’s questions via email and said they consulted all relevant stakeholders. It largely blamed the college for failing to raise the matter promptly with the department while avoiding assigning direct responsibility.

“Elangeni Tvet College has consistently prioritised proactive communication and diligent follow-ups in cases where there may be delays in the release of certificates by DHET. The case in point is that of the NCV Office Admin Level 4 of KwaMashu campus who did not receive their certificates from as far back as 2019,” said DHET, before noting that the college only followed up about the certificates in 2022.

“The correspondence process was initiated by [Elangeni] Tvet in 2022, and the verification letters were ultimately issued by the Department in October 2023. Efforts have been made to inform students about the availability of their certificates through various channels, including telephone calls, campus notices and social media posts.”

DHET called on the college to “remind the DHET about issues relating to the non-release of certificates and have a duty to keep the affected students updated on any progress”.

It said affected students should visit their campus or contact the college’s examinations department on 031 492 4363.

Hard to explain

Mbatha hoped that by now she would be in a secure job, possibly with benefits, but she is currently unemployed because her manager at the call centre fired her for asking for three days off to help out at her grandmother’s funeral.

Mkhize says during the few job interviews she has had she always stutters when asked about her certificate.

“It’s hard to explain. It just sounds like you are lying or you come across as a fraud,” said Mkhize.

She found a job doing cold calling marketing and worked so diligently that she became a team leader but the campaign ended and she lost the job. That was almost two years ago she has yet to find employment related to her studies.

“They will never truly understand how painful what they are doing to us is, to find yourself stuck after working so hard to get your qualification is depressing,” said Mkhize. DM

*Not her real name. Mkhize hopes to continue her studies with the college and is afraid of being rejected due to speaking to the media.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Jo Van says:

    It is just incredible that such inept and useless people could be in charge of an educational institution under the auspices of the department of education. Students not receiving their qualification certificates after successfully passing the courses since 2018, almost 6 years and still waiting. I will borrow a phrase from the SIU and say these colleges are a criminal enterprise and that heads must roll. There must be consequences! The certificates must be produced urgently.

  • Nick Miller says:

    This is appalling. Students make great efforts to achieve a qualification and are denied the opportunities they deserve. All to administrators blame other and cannot give a damn. Is there no one who can step in and sort this out?
    It is an awful reflection on where are as a society. Any point going to the PP?
    It makes me want to cry!

  • Roy Clarke says:

    I believe there may be a significant damages claim for these students if they could find good lawyer who would work on a pro bono basis or for a share of the proceeds or even approaching Legal Aid. I would suggest that Daily Maverick could assist by setting this up. It should not be left unpunished

  • Ditebogo Launia Motshwane says:

    “Education is one thing no one can take away from you.” …
    Above is the quote by the South African black president Mandela, anyhow what’s been mentioned above has proved to be fairytale and futile in South Africa’s own DHET as they are failing their own.

    I am also one of those who missed out on employment opportunities due to the very same backlog from the department, this has been dating backing to 2019 in which all those years I did try to reach out to the college and the DHET with no fruition to date.
    The black president might have said that then, maybe then administration knew the fundamental to the quote but the now administration is proving to us actually the opposite as we actually study but we cannot utilize or practice what we studied at tvet colleges especially meanwhile they are encouraging the nation to consider it alongside with the university level 🥺and in honesty I did my other qualification with Unisa and I got it immediately after ending the course. So I’m wondering what is happening now in our country but let be hopeful that it will get better.

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