Problems on campus: Buffalo City TVET college. The South African College Principals’ Organisation says some TVET college students have waited more than 10 years for their certificates. Picture: SISIPHO ZAMXAKA/ DAILY DISPATCH

The delays in issuing certificates to students from technical and vocational education training (TVET) colleges was hampering their capacity to find employment, MPs were told.

The umbrella body for TVET colleges, the South African College Principals’ Organisation (Sacpo), told the select committee on education and recreation on Wednesday that some students had waited more than 10 years for their certificates.

Sacpo president Hellen Ntlatleng sketched a picture of a sector in disarray: certificates sometimes had incorrect details, or were sent by the department of higher education & training to the wrong campuses; college officials failed to arrange for certificates to be sent to the correct campuses in their institutions; and colleges struggled to get feedback from the department about outstanding certificates.

In April 2017 the department said it had released 233,000 outstanding National Certificate (Vocational) (NCV) out of a total of 236,000 certificates, some of which dated back to 2007.

There are 50 TVET colleges in SA: they offer three-year NCV courses, pegged at level four on the National Qualifications Framework, and N courses, which are pitched at levels two to five on the qualifications framework and culminate in N diplomas. N courses are a series of six courses pitched at levels two to five on the qualifications framework. Students require additional practical experience to get their N diplomas.

'Certification remains an issue'

"The department [of higher education & training] has done a lot for TVET colleges but certification remains an issue," Ntlatleng told MPs. Despite the department’s assurances in 2017 that the backlog in issuing diplomas and certificates had been cleared, many students were still waiting for their documents, she said.

Ntlatleng’s presentation did not include data specifying the number of students affected, the colleges they had studied at, or how long they had waited for their documents. Instead, she provided examples of the kinds of problems they confronted.

"If persistent students get their certificates, it’s doable. So why can’t we do it for all?"

The department’s acting chief director for examinations, Daniel Ramakopa, challenged her portrayal of the issue, saying the backlog had largely been cleared. He conceded that some students who failed and had to repeat their studies were still battling to get their documents, which was due to inadequacies in the State Information Technology Agency’s systems.

Speaking to Business Day on the sidelines of the meeting, he said that Sacpo had submitted a report to the department about the certification problems, but he questioned the accuracy of its information.

While there have previously been student protests over delays in receiving certificates, there have been relatively few in 2018, suggesting the issue had to some extent been resolved.

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