'It's been a long hard road' - First group of scammed SA teachers arrive home from China

2018-06-25 12:49
Aspiring South African teachers are trapped in China. (Supplied)

Aspiring South African teachers are trapped in China. (Supplied)

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The first group of 19 South African English teachers have landed back on South African soil after they were detained in China for months.

"My son had his first Wimpy breakfast and he's smiling from ear to ear," spokesperson for the group of 51 South Africans, Charl Venter, told News24.

Venter's son Renier landed with the group on Monday morning after spending 109 days in China - six weeks of that under detention by Chinese authorities.

"Now, his spirit is high, but I know the reality will kick in later and he will need somebody to talk to," said Venter.

READ: Race on to rescue 51 scammed South Africans trapped in China

It is alleged that Owen Wang, who claimed to represent Sanda Youth International, enticed the group to fly to China on study visas on the understanding that they would get work visas once there.

'Conversation is still ongoing'

They were held because they had broken immigration laws, but the Chinese government acknowledged that the group had been scammed.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation worked with the families to secure the release of the South Africans and the Chinese government volunteered to fly them home.

READ: Scammed SA teachers released, heading back home from China

But not all the young people arrived on the first flight, and Venter said the other parents remain concerned about when their children would arrive.

"That conversation is still ongoing because the next group is only landing on Tuesday. We trust and believe that they will get home safely, but you don't relax until everybody's safe."

For Renier, the experience has been life changing and he has changed careers.

"He was going to teach English in China and he changed his career from rugby to teaching," said his father.

Some of the people have been in China since June 2017 and Wang is in detention following the charges against him.

The South Africans' passports were confiscated and many had no money to buy return tickets home.

Despite the challenges, Venter said the fact that parents could be united with children made it worthwhile, even though many need psychological debriefing.

"It's been a long hard road and it's going to take a bit of time."

Dodgy recruiters

TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) facilitator Craig Feris told News24 that dodgy recruiters will often promise students jobs in China.

"I've seen a recruiter send a student a picture of a fake degree and once they [the students] get there, they get exploit them. The school gets a reward for reporting illegal people - it's a whole scam system," said Feris who works at the Cape Town TEFL/Tesol Training Institute.

He advised potential teachers to be careful about the school that offered the TEFL course.

"Contact a school that offers TEFL - the schools will usually have a list of agents that they work with.

"For the 51 South Africans who were trapped in China, Feris said that policy is required to ensure agents are credible.

"There has to be some regularly body that checks these things out. At the moment it's a free for all and people should not go over unless they have a proper working visa - all over the world they have the same rules," said Feris who taught in South Korea for seven years.

Institute director Brian Norbury expressed his shock at the South Africans who were trapped.

"We never promise people that they can get jobs that they can't get," he told News24.

"I started TEFL in this country in 1991 and over the years I can't remember one person from our school coming to us saying they had a problem."

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