To catch a cheat

2009-03-11 00:00

GETTING a fake school report after failing a grade has become as easy as walking into a shady Internet café and paying as little as R100.

A Witness reporter proved this recently by buying a fraudulent report for only R100.

A local school has caught as many as 20 pupils with fake reports this year.

A Sukuma Secondary pupil, who was caught with one of the reports, led The Witness to the Internet café where she claims to have bought a report that states she has passed grade 11, after she actually failed grade 10 a number of times.

The girl, who was forced to confess after her mother was notified by the school where she was caught out, said she heard her peers talking about a man at an Internet café in Boshoff Street who produces fake reports.

As she received her report only in February, her mother did not know she had failed once again and she decided to try her luck and buy a new report.

“I went in and asked for Ray and told him I needed my report changed so that I could be accepted at another school. He did not have a problem and asked me how much I had. I told him I had R50, but he told me it was too little because he would also have to add the stamp, which he said was hard work, and so wanted R100,” said the 17-year-old. She was then sent to a woman employee, who did everything in less than 30 minutes.

Following the description of the man given by the teen, a Witness reporter posed as a grade 11 pupil who had failed at a Northdale High School. She carried a false report to this effect.

At the Internet café, the reporter was told that the man was studying, but was available after 4 pm every week day and on weekends.

When the Witness team went back again, the man, Ray, a foreigner, denied ever doctoring any reports. He casually served other customers while the negotiations were going on for the doctoring of the report.

Eventually, he took the report, asking for R200. The reporter paid Ray R100 and promised to pay the remainder on collection of the fake report. When the reporter collected the fake report, the remaining R100 was not asked for by Ray’s assistant. He was not there at the time.

Schools that get targeted:

Many of the fake reports purport to be from KwaPata, Sukuma and Georgetown Secondary, even when the pupils have never attended these schools.

Even pupils from private schools like St Jude College in Pinetown have submitted fake reports.

The schools believe that for many of these pupils it is a race against time, as the pupils say they are getting too old to carry on attending school. Some pupils want to jump from grade 10, which they have failed, to grade 12.

A principal said one pupil has admitted to going to a man in a township who has a range of stamps from public schools.

The schools blame the problem on parents, saying they are not being vigilant enough about their children’s education.

How schools find fakes:

The document the reporter bought was a fairly faithful facsimile of the original, but schools said glaring mistakes in grammar and spelling as well as questionable signatures help them zero in on the problem reports.

•One such report gave the same name for the pupil as for the principal.

•Some are hand-written, not printed.

•Other reports have the phased-out grading system of “higher” and “standard” grade.

However, the main indicators are the stamps, which don’t bleed through the paper like a normal stamp would, while photocopied reports might have odd lines running through the type.

Education Department inform police

THE KZN Education Department said that it was not aware of these fake school reports, but that it will now inform the police.

“Our school principals know to be extra careful when admitting learners from other schools. We encourage them to check with the schools [that] learners have left,” said spokeswoman Mbali Thusi.

On allegations put to her by The Witness that teachers at Georgetown Secondary were known to be making fraudulent reports as well as transfer letters for pupils who fail, Thusi said the issue has been raised with the department and all school records have been confiscated for investigation.

“… All educators that have been implicated are currently undergoing disciplinary hearings,” Thusi said.

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