An indeterminate number of students at the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology were unable to graduate last month courtesy of a tutor who tricked money out of them.
A source’s account is that the students in question failed certain modules in the last semester and were required to retake them. Worked methodically and quietly, the tutor approached each one of the students and offered to facilitate their retaking of the module at a generously discounted price. A module costs P2340 but from the figures quoted, the female tutor was willing to take just about anything more than P1000. The deal went through and just when the students were looking forward to graduating, the college’s finance department alerted them to a discrepancy in their records. The discrepancy was that while the records reflected that they had retaken the module in question, there was no indication that they had paid for it. Dumbfounded, they recounted what had happened with the tutor who, at this point, was on maternity leave.
According to Mercy Thebe, Limkokwing’s Regional Director of Corporate and Media Relations, the matter has been reported to the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport police station under whose policing jurisdiction the university falls.
“The University wishes to put on record that it strongly and unreservedly condemns the despicable actions of a member of staff who acted in a wholly unprofessional and improper manner. It is very important to emphasise that the individual member of staff in question never returned to work after her maternity leave and accordingly dismissed herself from the service of the University before the inevitable internal disciplinary procedures could be instituted,” Thebe said.
It is unclear how many students were affected. Our sources put the figure between 40 and 45 and choosing not disclosing any figure, Thebe said that “more than a few” were affected. Using the sources’ rough figures, the tutor would have pocketed a tidy, tax-free sum well above P50 000. After collecting the money, the lecturer did actually produce proof of payment in the form of a document called “CAF” which students use to register for modules.
In the wake of this incident, Thebe says that Limkokwing has reviewed and strengthened its internal payment procedures with the result that all handling of cash payments within the institution by individual staff has ceased.
“All payments are now done through First National Bank and all students have been made aware of this new development which has been in place since the last semester,” she said.
Sources say that this particular case was a mere tip of the iceberg, that the tutor was part of a syndicate that spanned the Registry as well as the Departments of Finance and Information Technology and that when discovered, this syndicate (30-or-so-strong according to a source) was disbanded with all culprits being fired. The most startling allegation is that using stolen passwords, the syndicate’s IT arm was able to breach the Registry’s database and alter the marks of students who had failed and would have greased palms. In response, the university is said to have despatched a team of IT experts from its Malaysia headquarters to make the database impenetrable.
Thebe would not be drawn into a detailed discussion on the existence of such syndicate: “When the subject matter of your inquiries first came to the attention of the University’s senior management, prompt and decisive action was taken to deal with the same. This is ongoing and given that some disciplinary hearings are still to be completed, it would not be appropriate to comment further suffice to say that your assertion of ‘30 or so employees being fired’ is totally inaccurate and a gross exaggeration.”
Whatever happened, there remains the question of what happens to the students who were scammed. Despite completing their studies, they didn’t get certificates and can therefore not look for employment that requires tertiary education. According to Thebe, “no student who has been the victim of misconduct by a member of staff will be disadvantaged whether in academic or financial terms by such action.”