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Exposed: College ‘defrauds’ students for 5 years

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Karonga Polytechnic (Kapoly), a private college located in Karonga, has been extorting money from people claiming that it registers them with University of South Africa (Unisa), Malawi News has learnt.

Some of the students who were duped have since confirmed this.

Our investigations have revealed that it all started when Unisa and Kapoly signed an agreement on December 8 2007 making Kapoly a Unisa Licensee and eligible to be registering students to do distance learning at Unisa.

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In 2012, the agreement with Unisa expired and it was never renewed. This happened because there were some challenges of getting money from students without registering them with Unisa or at times the refunds to students who were supposed to be refunded were not done.

However, after 2012 Kapoly continued to register students. In a letter dated February 6, 2014, which we have seen, Unisa reminded Kapoly that their agreement expired on November 30, 2012 and it advised the college to stop using their name in adverts and enrolling students.

Kapoly wrote Unisa requesting it to review termination of agreement but Unisa insisted they were no longer interested to work together again.

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But Kapoly continued to operate as a Unisa Licensee and has been running advertisements in the media.

In response, Unisa management team visited Malawi this week to investigate the matter further, after some students and others informed the South African institution that Kapoly is still advertising for Unisa applications.

According to the victims we have spoken to, they applied to Unisa through Karonga Polytechnic after they saw adverts in the local media.

They however noticed that they were not getting any updates or communication about their enrolment after the said starting date.

We have information of six students who were defrauded of over K2.3 Million in registration and school fees.

One of the victims, Lilongwe-based Nicholas Matola said he applied to study for a Bachelor of Health Management at Unisa through Kapoly.

“I received an offer letter which indicated that I needed to pay K530, 000 to Kapoly as tuition for the whole year. I had to borrow some money to do part payment since I was told to make the payment faster,” said Matola.

He added that he continued to get short message service (sms), which we have seen, reminding him about payment completion which he eventually completed.

But despite this, there was no evidence that he was enrolled with Unisa until January 2016. He tried to follow up with Kapoly and the director of the institution, Emmanuel Silungwe, only picked his call once and later ignored them.

“We only communicated through texts and emails. I later tried to get Unisa contacts and wrote them directly only to be told that I was not their student,” Matola said.

He fought for his refund and Kapoly told him that the minimum waiting time for reimbursement is four months but up to now, he has not been reimbursed and Silungwe has stopped communicating with him.

Malawi News has spotted some three adverts which Kapoly placed in the local media the recent one being that of August 13, 2016.

Siza Magubane, a deputy director at Unisa, confirmed that his institution has been getting complaints from ‘students’ that they were never registered despite payment to Kapoly.

“This is why we wrote to them three times stopping them. But it seems Kapoly doesn’t want to accept that we are no longer working with them five years after termination but he ignored us,” she said.

Magubane said Kapoly has been using Unisa in all its documents and this is greatly damaging their brand.

She also disclosed that she complained to Malawi National Council of Higher Education (NCHE) who promised to act on the matter.

Corporate Services Manager for NCHE, Dinganie Soko confirmed to have received Unisa’s complaint and their investigations established that there is no evidence of Kapoly’s claimed affiliation with Unisa.

“We ordered that they should stop operating as a higher education institution this issue being one of the bases,” he said.

But Silungwe insisted that his institution is affiliated to Unisa, claiming that Kapoly is “the most trusted and vibrant licensee given exclusive mandate to collect course student fees in Malawi as stipulated in the 2007 signed Memorandum of Understanding with Unisa as well as students admission”.

“There has never been and never do we ever dream of terminating our mutual collaborating contract with each other. The MOU between us is legally too complex, you can’t just wake up and say I have terminated. It can’t just be terminated through a mere simple email. The courts have to be involved, our legal offices must put their stamps and signatures,” he said.

Silungwe threatened that any breach of the contract would lead to payment of damages to the other party.

“We simply told Unisa that if it’s true (that they terminated the contract) then they must pay us R10 million in compensation and they never responded,” he said.

Silungwe said he suspects that Malawi News got this ‘misinformation’ from one of the two frustrated students that know very little or nothing about Kapoly’s mandate or we were misled by a reckless officer at Unisa who knows nothing about their legal mandate.

He even claimed that Kapoly is recognised by NCHE and has made its application which is now at an advanced stage.

“We are paying NCHE a visit tomorrow (Thursday) not for registration as such but monitoring and evaluation…. What we need most is not registration where we can be issuing certificates like other colleges do in Malawi but NCHE monitoring and evaluation so that our operational standards are not compromised.

“Since certificates are issued by Unisa and curriculum is that of Unisa, we don’t need any such accreditation at moment. We shall continue to be the admission office of Unisa in the country and leave the rest to them,” he said.

Unisa is an open distance learning institution offering international accredited qualification.

It offers 400,000 students from across South Africa, Africa and other parts of the world, its website says.

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