A union based at the University of Zululand has told Parliament that its bachelor of education (B Ed) programme could be declared invalid because several modules had not been approved by the Council on Higher Education (CHE).

Hlakaniphani Jamile, the deputy secretary of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), accused vice-chancellor Xoliswa Mtose, who was the dean of education in 2013, of unilaterally removing certain courses from what was then an accredited degree and replacing them with others.

In a 13-page submission he stated how Mtose, in consultation with her faculty executive,  “cleaned the prospectus” of the education faculty by removing modules from the B Ed programme which were deemed unnecessary.

“The altered programmes were never submitted to the department of higher education and training for approval.”

According to Jamile, students completing their fourth year of study in 2014 were following the previous bachelor of education qualification that had 43 modules, while the new one introduced in 2014 had 36 modules.

He said that a new qualification had to be approved by the faculty board, senate and the CHE.

“The programmes developed by Professor Mtose have never been approved in any structure of the university.”

Jamile said that the qualification may also not be recognised by employers, adding: “The department of basic education, which is the main employer of teachers, may decide not to employ graduates of Unizulu should they find out that the institution is not offering accredited teacher qualifications.”

Professor Narend Baijnath, chief executive of the CHE, said the agreement was that the university would submit its new B Ed programmes to the CHE last year – but the newly-aligned qualifications were only submitted in June this year.

“The CHE is currently evaluating these programmes for accreditation. At this stage it is not possible to indicate what the outcome of the evaluation process will be.”

He said that all the B Ed programmes were classified as category C programmes, which meant that they were not aligned to the Higher Education Qualifications Sub-Framework.

The university was granted a concession to new entrants into the education programmes until December 2019.

“As per an agreement between the university, CHE and department of higher education, it was resolved that UniZulu would not enrol any first-year student in 2016 education programmes, except for programmes that would have been accredited for the minimum requirements for teacher education qualification.”

Said Baijnath: “If any institution for higher education offers a non-accredited programme, the certificate that the student will receive will not be valid.”

A fourth-year student at the University of Zululand, who is enrolled for the teaching degree, said she was extremely worried that her qualification could be declared invalid.

“If the programme was not accredited, then it means we had wasted our time studying for it,” she said.

Rej Brijraj, chief executive of the South African Council for Educators (Sace), said: “If the whole qualification has not been approved by the relevant quality assurance authority, in this case the CHE, then Sace will not be able to register those educators and give them full registration.”

He said if it was confirmed that the B Ed degree was not accredited by the CHE, Sace would immediately look at all registrations granted to education graduates from the University of Zululand.

“If teachers (have) a qualification that’s not accredited, they must immediately leave the profession because besides Sace having to deregister them, it will have to also report it to the police because it’s a criminal act.”

But the university’s director of communications and marketing, Gcina Nhleko, insisted that the B Ed degree which was introduced in 2014 “is aligned and accredited with the CHE”.

“Our students are well-equipped to enter the working industry as competent teacherrs.”

She said Mtose realigned the programme as certain modules were “irelevant and needed updating” to be responsive to industry needs.