The 92 teachers who were teaching with fake qualifications in KwaZulu-Natal represent a meaningful increase of professionals in both the public and private sector who ply their trades with fake credentials.

Danie Strydom of qualifications verification company QVS says there had been a year-on-year increase in the number of fake qualifications uncovered by his company and that a growing number of workers see this as a quick fix to a high-paying job.

The dismissal of the KZN teachers comes after a three-year investigation by the provincial education department.

Muzi Mahlangi of the KZN Education Department says there were no plans to prosecute these teachers. “We are dealing with these cases internally and there are no plans at present to report the cheats to the police or take criminal action against them.”

Themba Ndhlovu of the South African Council of Educators says his main concern is how widespread the problem actually is.

“In the past two weeks we’ve had cases of individuals attempting to register with fake credentials. Two have been arrested,” he says.

The Council wishes to stamp out the problem and has handed over several cases to SAPS. Working hand-in-hand with the KZN Department of Education it wants all teachers in KZN to resubmit their degrees and diplomas for verification.

“It is possible to determine the authenticity of a degree or diploma by verifying it via the Internet at QVS,” says Ndhlovu. “The process is quick and user friendly. Sometimes the names, subjects or qualification descriptions are clearly forged but some are done so well that we can only make a determination by verifying the qualification against the database of  the relevant  academic institutions.”

He says the people producing these documents are very good because some of the copies they made are difficult to distinguish from the real thing.

With the aim of clamping down on the fraudulent activity, the KwaZulu Natal education department is asking all teachers to re-produce their certificates as part of a verification process. Those who don’t will be investigated, and if found guilty, they could face dismissal.

Strydom says at present between 10% and 12% of all degrees and diplomas verified by his company turn out to be bogus.

“What I find surprising is the fact that most employers – including the public service – still accept these documents at face value and don’t take the trouble to verify them.

“There is ample evidence that shows that degree and diploma cheats cannot properly do the jobs they are hired for because the lack the skills of their qualified counterparts. They also deprive graduates and diplomates who worked hard to get their qualifications from getting work.”