By Wachira Kigotho and Ally Jamah
Insatiable appetite for foreign academic qualifications is fleecing unsuspecting students and their parents a lot of money without providing skills required in the job market.
A wide range of commercial colleges and back-street rogue academic sites that are not registered with the Ministry for Higher Education are cheating students by promising success in a variety of courses.
There are more than 1,500 colleges registered with the ministry but many more operate illegally, says the head of the Directorate of Technical Accreditation and Quality Assurance in the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology N K Gakungu.
A mere five per cent of KCSE candidates join public universities through the Joint Admissions Board and a similar fraction end up in parallel programmes.
A small number enroll in private institutions locally and abroad but the majority end up in middle level colleges.
The marketing angle for some of the dubious colleges is the claim that they offer high quality courses in collaboration with prestigious western universities such as Oxford, Cambridge and London and and international examination bodies.
Courses on offer include computer driving licenses, business and marketing, journalism, aviation, hotel management, travel and tourism, and law. Others are public relations, software development, hospitality and foreign languages. Where it takes three years to obtain a diploma in hotel management at Utalii College and other internationally recognised institutions, such a course in rogue colleges in Eldoret, Nairobi Nakuru and Thika takes a maximum of six months.
Diplomas in print journalism, radio and television production are taking less than six months and there is a possibility of getting three diplomas in a year.
"Your son does not need to go to the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication for two years just for one diploma.
He can get three diplomas in one year in our City and Guilds programme," an admissions official from at rogue college in Nairobi told this writer recently. However, City & Guilds of London Institute is an examining and accreditation body for vocational, managerial and engineering that offers courses in three levels. ‘A’ level takes about a year in a full time study.
Others just claim to offer international diplomas from leading institutions without identifying those institutions.
"Study with us and you will be rewarded as we will make you join world-class universities," a student who has a C- in KCSE was told.
Some promise to teach computer engineering, software development and programming to students who have average of D grades in the KCSE.
The beauty of those colleges is that nobody is turned away because of having low grades.
"In our college, the choice is open to students to develop their abilities," says a proprietor who wanted a write-up on his college.
Pressed to state the minimum entry qualifications in at the college, he barked: "Our in-house motto to students is choice is yours."
But as rogue colleges continue to give students choices, parents have been paying heavily. For instance, academically weak students enrolled for the Kasneb examinations eventually drop out after staying in those colleges for many years.
Eventually, ‘course advisers’ encourage them to join ‘partnership programmes’ where they are awarded joint diplomas in accounting, banking and finance and marketing.
Besides those bogus colleges, academic sites purporting to help students score high marks in the Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SATs) are also fleecing parents with children intending to join universities in the United States. Some of those fake sites claim to be the official SAT studies centres, although they cannot prove their claims.
But as Kenyans continue to crave for education made in foreign countries, bogus colleges will continue to flourish and to cheat many unsuspecting students.
Gakungu says many colleges that offer medical-related courses such as pharmacy, laboratory technology and analytical chemistry do so without the approval from relevant professional bodies like the Kenya Medical Laboratory Technicians and Technologists Board (KMLTB) or Pharmacy & Poisons Board.
The Public Relations Officer for the Ministry of Higher Education Dorcas Ambuto reveals that the Regional Centre For Tourism and Foreign Languages, is under scrutiny for offering courses that are supposed to take two years for nine months.
Another well-known college in Nairobi offers air travel and related offers aeronautical engineering even though the students we interviewed complained that the courses was long on theory and short on practical.
Ms Ambuto says the ministry is aware that some colleges employ unqualified lecturers to reduce salary costs.
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