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Ntokozo Khumalo
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South Africa: The land of the fake qualifications

11 February 2013, 15:56

“So what do you want? A diploma, degree what?” The syndicate ask, “Also if you are not too smart and will mess up in your interview then maybe don’t get too excited about wanting a higher qualification then what is fitting to you”

A friend was relaying a story about a friend, of a friend whose distant cousin is in the business of fraudulently creating qualifications. We all knew the story was probably a little closer to home, but our interest on how it all works stopped us from saying “Come on, be real with us, you’re the one who is in the business right”

The business of fake qualifications has been growing in South Africa since 2011. Demand has been on a steady rise as unemployment continues to rise, meaning supply will be endless.  Business is booming so fast that some syndicates even lure in possible clients through emails that read “Contact us NOW to receive your diploma within days, and start improving your life!” How having a fake qualification improves your life is beyond me.

In Kwazulu-Natal, the Department of Education has uncovered that 173 teachers have fake qualification trough an investigation that dates back to 2005. I am surprised the uncovered numbers are so low and a little disgusted it took almost 10 years to uncover this. The syndicates that do this are not overly qualified geeks as American television would have us believe, but they are underpaid or unemployed individuals also trying to put a plate on the table at the end of the night. So why is it so difficult to find and prosecute them and why is it near impossible for businesses to identify a fake qualification?

According to the UK Naric (  there are a number of ways to identify a fake qualification.

Lack of official stamps/ official seals. Degree certificates always come with official seals or stamps. These may be embossed, stamped or raised seals.

Paper quality. Look out for security features and the quality of the paper.

A variety of fonts used. The majority of degree certificates do not use more than three or four font styles.

Alignment. Degree certificates are generally aligned down the centre of the page.  ‘Cut and paste’ techniques on documents often make mistakes in the alignment.

Handwriting If there is hand-writing on a certificate there should generally be no more than one style of handwriting.  Also, there should be no alternations or corrections on the document.

Scanned signatures. Scanned signatures have often been taken from websites or scanned from other documents.  The signatures will be pixelated. On genuine documents this will not be the case.

Informal or inaccurate language. The language used on degree transcripts is often very formal.  Read the text carefully and ensure that it makes sense and that the correct grammar has been used.

Awarding bodies. Can the institution in question award that given qualification?  Is the institution accredited?

South Africa needs to get serious about fighting this problem, children are receiving inadequate education, patients are dying at the hands of unqualified doctors and the country is paying for this.

It is not helping elevate the country’s unemployment numbers, but it does push through people who are not yet employable into our workforce and pushing those that are employable out.

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