Students stranded after unregistered schools are shut down
MASERU — For 10 years, Meme Boleka had struggled to secure a place at a tertiary college to further her studies. But last year the search came to a happy end when she was admitted at the cleverly-named Inter-Creative Emergency Medical Training School in Maseru. For the 36-year-old Baleka, this was a fulfilment of a lifelong dream. After two years of study, Baleka dreamed of landing her dream job and saving lives. She was studying for a Basic Ambulance Assistance course. Two weeks ago, Baleka had the shock of her life when the government moved swiftly and shut down the school claiming that it was operating illegally.
In a joint statement to parliament on September 24, education and health ministers ‘Mampono Khaketla and Mphu Ramatlapeng said the government was contemplating banning all illegal medical schools. “Honourable members it has come to our realisation that unregistered institutions are mushrooming in higher education,” said the ministers. “This is unlawful and we are going to do all we can to close down all unregistered schools.” The ministers said certificates awarded by these “bogus” institutions “are not worth the paper they are written on”. “What hurts most is that such schools rip off poor Basotho by charging huge fees on worthless certificates,” they said.
“This puts people’s lives at risk. “We have been informed that they have been recruiting students over the radio. “People should be warned that the schools are not registered,” said the ministers. The two ministers mentioned Inter- Creative Emergency Medical Training School, later renamed Lesotho Medical College, and Eagle Paramedic College among the schools that were operating illegally. The ministers said although the schools had applied for registration they had violated the law by recruiting students before their applications had been processed. “While the ministries were deciding whether to accept or reject the applications, the (schools) began registering students,” they said.
They said earlier in September, the ministries received a letter from the Lesotho Medical College requesting that their school be registered because they had charged heavy fees. “They asked that their school be approved. They said they had had some misunderstanding with parents because of the fees,” the ministers said. “The schools have abused the children. We are going to deal with it.” True to their word, Inter-Creative Emergency Medical Training School was shut down the following day. Boleka is devastated. Boleka said the decision to shut down the school meant the end of the road for her.
But at the back of her mind she still curses herself for failing to do one thing when she enrolled for the course: check the legality of the school. She said she was so thrilled when she got a place to study. She said the “college” charged M7 000 per year, an amount Boleka said was “too steep” for her. Boleka said because she really wanted to complete the course, she forked out the astronomical fees. “I had spent almost half of my life staying at home,” she said. “It had been my biggest wish to be admitted to a tertiary school.
“I had been turned down by all the colleges I had applied to. “When my application got through I was very happy. I thought I would finally go a to tertiary college and have good job opportunities.” She said she was so overcome with joy that she did not take time to check the background and authenticity of the courses offered by the school. “I never bothered to check anything about the school. All I cared about was the fact that I was finally at a tertiary institution,” she said. Boleka said the school’s owner, Dr Teboho Bulane, had promised them that they would be able to secure jobs anywhere in the world.
“He promised us that we were going to receive the best training. He said we could get employed anywhere in the world based on the qualifications we would get from the school.” Boleka said she only realised the school was unregistered after it was shut down. Tsépo Monaheng studied at the Inter-Creative Emergency Medical Training, and graduated with a certificate in Basic Ambulance Assistance. He however failed to secure a job and went back to the school where he was now working as an “instructor” while also pursuing further “studies.”
He said he was turned away everywhere he applied because his certificate was not registered. Now with the school gates firmly shut, Monaheng is devastated. He said Bulane had ripped them off. “He cheated us. He did not tell us that he had not registered the school. He knew that this was going to happen,” Monaheng said. Monaheng said after the school was shut down on September 25, some students had tried to talk to Bulane so that he would reimburse the fees they had paid. But Bulane flatly refused to entertain their demands, Monaheng said. He said Bulane had wasted their time. “We could have done something productive with our lives. We are going to demand that he refund us.” Efforts to get comment from Bulane failed.
The registrar of Eagle Paramedic College, Moji Sefeane, rejected charges that the school was operating illegally. Sefeane claimed the school had been granted a provisional registration certificate which allowed them to continue operating until they got approval from the Ministry of Education. “Minister Khaketla might have overlooked our provisional registration. We were given a go-ahead by the director- general of health on March 16 last year to continue our operations,” Sefeane said. “The provisional registration allows us to carry on with the training while we are still awaiting the approval of our registration application.”
He said the school was still operating normally with classes going on. “We have some of our students attached at the Mokoanyane Military Hospital. “That is proof that we are doing the right thing,” a confident Sefane said. It was not possible to establish how many students were studying at the “college” as well as the fees they had paid.