THE Council on Higher Education (CHE) has done well to warn the public about illegal tertiary education institutions.
It must however be doing more than just warn the public. Severe measures should be taken against institutions that have continued to operate illegally.
This is particularly so because bare-born colleges have continued to operate despite warnings from the council.
Clearly the warnings have been ignored.
That many students continue to enrol with such illegal colleges is evidence that the Council on Higher Education (CHE)’s warnings have not reached everyone in the country.
More needs to be done to educate people of the dangers of studying at unregistered colleges.
The council seems to be aware of institutions operating illegally but does not say how it will deal with them.
It is telling that no one has been arrested or convicted for operating an illegal college.
Merely warning the public is therefore futile if it is not supported by strong measures to deal with delinquent institutions.
You can warn the victims but if you are not shutting down bogus institutions the problem will remain.
We also doubt that many people will ask for a school’s accreditation certificate first before they enrol.
Yet even if they do that it does not make the system foolproof.
People can still be hoodwinked to believe that a school is genuine when it’s not.
The council seems to have unwittingly left room for such unscrupulous operators by saying an institution should show evidence that it is working towards accreditation.
What kind of evidence should people request from the institutions and what constitutes evidence that the accreditation is in progress?
In the absence of this clarification anything can constitute evidence.
The chances that some people will be cheated or have already been cheated are quite high.
The other problem is that even if an institution has evidence that it is working towards accreditation there is no guarantee that it will get accredited.
So some institutions might show evidence that they are working on accreditation, enrol students and then fail to get accredited.
The students will be stuck with qualifications from unaccredited institutions.
They would have lost time and money.
A name-and-shame tactic would help somewhat although there is danger that it might trigger panic.
Listing institutions that are accredited or are working on their accreditation is a good idea but it only works well with a good publicity campaign to get the message to the people.
The risk though is that the CHE might say a college is working towards accreditation and then refuse to accredit it.
Perhaps the biggest challenge the council has is not in weeding out illegal institutions but in ensuring that those that are accredited maintain the required standards.
Getting accredited is one thing but maintaining the standards is quite another.
There is a danger that if not properly monitored some institutions might spruce up to get registered and then go back to their old silly ways.
It must be remembered that the main purpose of the council is not to register higher education institutions but maintain standards.
It is these standards that will ensure that Lesotho’s graduates can hold their own in the world.
Our tertiary institutions have been left to their own devices for too long.
Without a regulator, some have allowed themselves to slip into mediocrity.
The result is that they have churned out graduates ill-prepared for the rigours of industry.
Some have been rundown by poor management.
CHE can change that but only if it is firm and committed to shaking the institutions from their slumber.