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Colleges will operate until end of the year

13,000 students to be affected by closures

Damelin College in Braamfontein
Damelin College in Braamfontein

Itumeleng Pitso, 32, had just received her student registration credentials from Damelin College on Monday when she learnt that the institution will cease to exist by the end of this year.  

She had paid R2,800 for her hospitality course module with Damelin campus in Braamfointen and now she wants her money back and to deregister herself.

As higher education and training minister Blade Nzimande explained at a press conference why his department decided to cancel the registration of Educor institutions – Damelin College, CityVarsity, Lyceum colleges and Icesa City Campus, students and parents were visiting some of these institutions to get answers while workers complained about not being paid their salaries by Educor. 

“I had heard people speaking about it [deregistration] on social media, but I didn’t think it was related to my college. I thought it was one of the sister colleges. I then checked on the internet and it was everywhere,” said Pitso. 

"I want my money back because I don’t want to continue studying with them. I have sent them emails and have tried to call them but they are not answering their phones,” Pitso said. 

A mother whose son is studying IT at Damelin in Pretoria visited the campus yesterday to demand answers and to get her R43,000 she had paid for the year's tuition.

“This is his fourth year, next year he is supposed to complete his qualification. I have been here to inquire about the future of the school and to possibly deregister my son because we are all panicking at this point. I spent a lot of money here but it seems like I wasted it,” said a parent who did not want to be named as she works for the state.

The department cancelled the registrations on Friday, saying the institutions had not submitted annual financial statements for 2021 or 2022 or complied with the law.

Nzimande said, the institutions will operate until December this year to allow them to phase out the students from the register. About 13,000 students will be affected.

Another parent said they are frustrated by the lack of communication. “My child is left with three modules, and he was supposed to graduate soon. On Monday, they said we must relax and that they won't be deregistered immediately, and I said I would come back today [Tuesday],” 

She learnt about the deregistration through another parent. “They didn’t communicate with us. They just allow our kids to continue studying like there’s nothing wrong. January we also registered again without being told anything. I am angry and frustrated,” 

Employees at the Damelin institutions also shared their frustrations of not being paid their salaries consistently.

A lecturer at the Braamfontein campus said everything was fine until new management came into the picture last year when they were not paid for three months of the second semester without an explanation. They were still required to report to work.

They were again not paid for November, December and January this year and had to borrow money to support their families. The company paid them last month and only backdated the salary for two months. They had not received their March salaries on Monday, which is their payday. 

Yesterday, Nzimande said Educor colleges were “dysfunctional" because of the number of complaints received from both students and employees.

“The complaints we have received include misrepresentation of the number of students, poor method of teaching and learning, poor administration, allegations of corruption and late payment of staff salaries.”  

Nzimande said problems at Educor colleges ran deeper and that some of its institutions had to close for failure to pay rent.

Educor executive assistant Surina Baijnath said they were surprised by the publication of the deregistration notice issued by the department's deputy director-general (DDG) Nkosi Sishi in July last year.

“We are extremely surprised by the publication of this notice, particularly given the ongoing discussions and efforts to resolve the matter amicably. As a result, we are currently pursuing an appeal process with the department and are also considering our legal position with the assistance of our attorneys,” said Baijnath. 

In another statement, Anne Whaits, Educor's head of academic affairs, said they were "perplexed by the lack of attention given to the issues of such a serious nature by the office of the DDG".

“The DDG's office never applies its mind and is continuously at odds within its own internal administration. On requesting a response from its legal head, Adv Kuta advised that she had no knowledge of why the notice was released now, almost a year later,” read the statement. 

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) welcomed the deregistration of Educor colleges but urged the department not to dump students who were midway in pursuing their studies.

Saftu national secretary Trevor Shaku said Educor had been mistreating employees and students for too long. 

“The workers’ grievances were handled with utter unprofessionalism and arrogance".  said Shaku. 

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