Fake Varsities, Degrees Impeding Development -But stakeholders Want Academic Crime Court to Curb Menace

The level of development and transformation of any country is to a larger extent predicated on the deposit of knowledge made possible by the existence of institutions whose duties are to train and produce the requisite manpower that will drive the process.   So it goes to say, the more a country invests in its human capital, there is a very high possibility for the country to develop and the less the emphasis, the little the country will development. Despite limited public sector support to education, there is a growing enthusiasm among a good number of the citizens to travel the route for academic advancement. The understanding there is with attainment of education, there are brighter chances of one getting a better job in a small competing space. So there is a crave for education but it has also come to be associated with some bad elements who are making use of the lacuna therein, have been doing the ignoble thing thereby creating the need for an Academic Crime Court in the country. As it stands, it either be operating a fake or unaccredited institution, or it is faking degrees to get opportunities that required some qualifications. The Analyst took reports

Major stakeholders in the education sector of the country have been raising serious concerns about the existence of unaccredited higher institutions and the proliferation of fake degrees in the country, and have expressed the need for the setting up of an Academic Crime Court (ACC) to avert the adverse implication this ugly situation has on national development.

The concern took a new twist recently when information started flooding the social media and other media spaces that some prominent Liberians, including high profile government officials were linked to obtaining fake degrees from institutions they did not attend while others obtained qualifications from certificate mill-institutions abroad, prominent among them is the American International University (AIU), believed to be located in Florida, USA.

A top member of the management team of one of the private universities in Monrovia who did not want his name to be put in the media for some reasons, said the development is worrisome and portends a big danger for the present and future of the country. He said his institution has taken serious interest in the unfortunate story and has constituted a committee to counter-check all credentials submitted by all the academic staff of the University.

“This is troubling. We, from our end, are not taking the situation lightly. This is highly criminal. How can we be serious with development in this country when people are faking degrees or operating fake universities to deceive the people? We have constituted a committee to vet all the credentials of all our staff including myself and any defaulter found will be shamed publicly and turned over for prosecution”, the educator said.

What started as a small discussion on social media ballooned into a full scale adventure when the chief initiator of the crusade, Mr. Martin K. N. Kollie, a former student activist started digging deeper in the academic profiles of some prominent people including top government functionaries and academicians.

“This crusade is not about Martin Kollie. It is about the country and its future. This has got to stop. We will not encourage this kind of criminality to go unchecked. There are people who are genuinely going to school or who have graduated with genuine qualifications but there are the other criminals who are lying about their qualifications and blocking opportunities for the right people,” Mr. Kollie was reported saying on one of the talk shows he was guest for.

According to information released so far by Mr. Kollie who operates his advocacy under the banner Voices From Exile (VEx), a top lawmaker whose claim to have a doctorate degree was proven to be fake just like his counterpart who also claimed to have acquired a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from a Nigerian University and was pursuing Master’s degree in two of Liberia’s top university, University of Liberia and Cuttington University was proven to be untrue.

According to him, a university, in which a top government junior minister was said to have acquired a combined Master’s and Doctorate is fake. “What is Charisma University’s status here? It is ‘C’ which means “working towards obtaining accreditation”.   In other words, it has only applied for accreditation status but it has not obtained accreditation yet. What did Charisma actually do? This degree mill only applied for accreditation at two different levels which are indicated in this table as B/G (Baccalaureate Degree/4-year and Graduate Degree).

This invisible University, Charisma, even LIED about its level again. Any “business school” can apply to ACBSP and such a school’s name is usually uploaded on ACBSP’s site to indicate that one’s school has applied and is going through a series of processes”, he said in one of his write ups on Facebook.

So far, none of those whose academic qualifications have been disputed have not come up to defend themselves publicly and so people are left with the inclination that they do not have any objection.

The stories of unaccredited or fake higher institutions offering degrees and other qualifications are not limited to foreign institutions alone. There are others ranging from religious institutions, nursing schools, technical colleges to junior colleges and universities operating and fleecing unsuspecting students and parents of their hard earned money.

“The last of the worst is yet to be heard. Can you imagine that my daughter spent three years attending that fake university which was moving from one location to another and one morning we just heard that they had folded up from their last location and none of the administrators or teachers could be found? Now, what becomes of my daughter’s plight, a furious Bartee Swen told this paper recently.

According to information available from the National Commission for Higher Education (NCHE), the autonomous agency of government charged with the responsibility of regulating, evaluating, accrediting and establishing institutions of higher learning in the country, there are 38 higher institutions of learning, 10 are government or public run, 19 are faith-based and 9 are privately owned.

A lecturer in education at the University of Liberia when asked why the rising cases of fake degrees and universities continue to go on unchecked, said that everything boils down to the government through the National Commission for Higher Education, which he described as a toothless bulldog and an entity peopled by people who lacked the qualifications and competences to be there in the first place. He said it was sad that the institution is sitting there helpless while the country and its future are being ruined by criminals.

“Do they even understand what a regulatory body that oversees higher education is? A serious government will be talking about having seasoned educators with higher qualifications, preferably doctorate with cognate experience, well-polished to be there.

But you have people with lesser education, some with even questionable qualifications formulating policy and trying to enforce directives they do not understand. So, why are you asking me why this ugly situation is rising up unchecked”, the veteran educator said.

Mr. Simeon Benjamin, a Liberian who just returned to the country to establish a junior college in Harbel, Margibi County, concurred with the University don when he stated that the NCHE has a very poor mechanism to vet applications from people intending to establish higher institutions. He said from what he has experienced at the NCHE, the officials are easily compromised to bend the rules.

“There is nothing rigorous that goes on with vetting applications. Just take a photo of an empty building as your proposed campus, then give them the envelopes they ask for, BOOM, you have a university to your name”, Mr. Benjamin said.

Speaking recently to our staff reporter, the public relation officer of NCHE said the agency is highly challenged by funding, and it has seriously affected the operations of the institution. He said on some occasions, the NCHE went after some of what he called “mushroom” institutions, closed them down but after some time, the same schools went to another location to operate.

“Yes, some of the problems you are talking about do exist but again it boils down to funding that undermines our operation. To effect drastic measures, you need the law enforcement officers who will not want to do the job without money”, he said.

A tough talking cleric speaking to the press also gave consent to the establishment of an Academic Crime Court to put on trials all those peddling with fake degrees and operating higher institutions that are not registered and recognized by the government. He said people are joking with this, but it is a very grave issue that can destroy any nation.

“This is tantamount to broad day stealing. Others spend their time, money, energy and other resources to get educated, then another one sits somewhere forging degrees to get the jobs the real qualified person is supposed to get. On the other hand, someone is opening a fake university or higher institution to deceive people, wasting their time and everything then at the end of the day, he runs away with impunity”, the cleric said.

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