Fake Degrees Hit Zimbabwe And South Africa
10 March 2024
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By Jacob Kudzayi Mutisi | The recent scandal involving Summit Africa’s co-founder, Langalezwe Madonko, and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s adviser, Thabi Leoka, in South Africa has brought to light the pervasive issue of fake qualifications. South Africa has taken significant steps to combat this problem through institutions like the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).

However, Zimbabwe now faces a similar crisis with the exposure of the International Institute of Philanthropy (IIP), an unregistered degree awarding institution run by Enrico Sibanda, by the Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education (ZimCHE). Additionally, the downgrading of University of Zambia degrees by the United Kingdom Home Office raises concerns about the integrity of educational qualifications. This article explores the measures Zimbabwe can take to halt the proliferation of fake doctorates and qualification fraudsters, ultimately protecting its education system.Fake qualifications pose a significant threat to Zimbabwe’s education system. They undermine the integrity of academic achievements, erode public trust, and compromise the quality of education. The consequences of fake qualifications extend beyond individuals who obtain them, they also affect employers, the economy, and society at large. It is imperative for Zimbabwe to address this issue promptly and effectively to preserve the value of genuine education and safeguard the future of its educated workforce.

Lessons from South Africa’s Approach
South Africa’s experience in combating fake qualifications offers valuable lessons for Zimbabwe. The establishment of SAQA as a dedicated authority responsible for verifying qualifications has been instrumental in upholding the integrity of South Africa’s education system. Zimbabwe can consider implementing a similar organisation to lead the verification process and ensure the authenticity of academic credentials.

Building a Robust Verification System
To effectively tackle the issue of fake qualifications, Zimbabwe needs to develop a comprehensive verification system. This system should involve collaboration between government bodies, educational institutions, and relevant stakeholders. Some strategies that can be employed to combat this cancer include:

Establish a Centralised Verification Authority: Zimbabwe should establish a centralised authority responsible for verifying qualifications. This authority should be adequately resourced and equipped with the necessary expertise and technology to conduct thorough checks on academic credentials.
Strengthen Collaboration with Higher Education Institutions: The verification authority should work closely with universities and educational institutions to streamline the verification process. Regular audits and inspections can be conducted to ensure compliance with quality standards and identify any irregularities.
Enhance Legal Frameworks: Zimbabwe should review and strengthen existing laws related to fraudulent qualifications. Penalties for individuals found guilty of producing or using fake credentials should be appropriately severe to deter potential fraudsters.
Utilise Technology and Data Systems: Investing in advanced technology and secure data systems can significantly aid the verification process. Digital platforms and databases can be established to store and cross-reference qualification records, making it easier to detect fake credentials.
Conduct Public Awareness Campaigns: Raising awareness among the public about the dangers of fake qualifications is crucial. Educational institutions, government agencies, and media outlets should collaborate to educate individuals about the importance of verifying qualifications and the potential consequences of using fake credentials.
Addressing the IIP Scandal and Strengthening Oversight
The exposure of the International Institute of Philanthropy (IIP) as an unregistered degree awarding institution necessitates stronger oversight mechanisms in Zimbabwe. In addition to the aforementioned strategies, the following steps can be taken:

Thorough Investigation and Legal Action: Zimbabwean authorities, in collaboration with ZimCHE, should conduct a thorough investigation into the IIP scandal. Those responsible for running unregistered degree programs should be held accountable through legal action.

Strengthen Accreditation Processes: Zimbabwe should establish or enhance accreditation processes to ensure that only legitimate and recognised institutions are authorised to offer degrees. Accreditation bodies should conduct thorough evaluations of institutions before granting accreditation.

Regular Audits and Inspections: Educational institutions should undergo regular audits and inspections to verify compliance with accreditation standards. This process should include checks on faculty qualifications, curriculum, administrative practices, and adherence to regulatory requirements.

Collaboration with Employers: Zimbabwe should foster stronger partnerships with employers to address the issue of fake qualifications in the workplace. Employers can play a crucial role in verifying the authenticity of credentials during the recruitment process.

Strengthening Collaboration with International Bodies: Zimbabwe should actively seek collaboration with international accreditation bodies and organisations specialising in combating fake qualifications. This collaboration can involve sharing best practices, exchanging information, and establishing joint initiatives to address the issue.

The prevalence of fake qualifications in Zimbabwe’s education culture demands immediate action. By drawing lessons from South Africa’s experience and implementing a robust verification system, Zimbabwe can effectively combat this crisis. Establishing a centralised verification authority, strengthening collaboration with higher education institutions, enhancing legal frameworks, utilising technology and data systems, and conducting public awareness campaigns are all essential steps in ensuring the integrity of Zimbabwe’s education system. Additionally, addressing the IIP scandal and strengthening oversight through thorough investigations, legal action, accreditation processes, audits, and collaborations with employers and international bodies will further fortify the system. Protecting the education system requires the collective effort of government bodies, educational institutions, employers, and the wider society. By taking decisive action to expose fake qualifications and hold fraudsters accountable, Zimbabwe can restore trust and ensure that the value of genuine education is upheld. With a robust verification system in place, Zimbabweans can pursue their education and careers with confidence, and the nation can continue to thrive on the foundation of a strong and authentic educational framework.

Zimbabwe should protect their education system religiously.

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