By Patseni Mauka
Even though many argue that degrees and diplomas are not the standard for intelligence, and that formal qualifications are not a mark of leadership potential, this romantic notion is debunked by the many people that will do just about anything to prove that they have had an education. Of course education is not just about going to school and getting a certificate. It is about widening your knowledge and absorbing the truth about life. Formal education helps one learn how to be organized, critically analyse things and survive in the modern world systems. However, self-education through acquisition of knowledge and information through reading of relevant books helps one become much better than the average credential holder. Brilliant people are those who have acquired basic knowledge through conventional education and a lot of additional knowledge through self-education.
Whichever way one chooses to get knowledge and necessary skills for life, the most important thing is to become a world citizen capable of contributing to humanity one way or another. It is also important to visualize what you want to be in your life. For example, it is difficult for one to aspire to be a bank CEO and not get the required credentials for such a job. The world has decided that certificates, diplomas and degrees should be part of the basis for deciding who can get jobs. You can have as much knowledge as possible in a particular specialization, but if you don’t have the credentials, chances are you will never even be invited for an interview.
Those that failed to visualize what they wanted to be and plan whether to get credentials through formal or self-education are now being found at a loss once they realize that they should have pursued a degree. Even those whose current careers doesn’t need degrees, suddenly feel they need a degree just to fit in degree holder’s conversations. These are the people that are jumping at every opportunity to get degrees. They don’t care how, where they get the degrees or anything, as long as it’s a degree!
An entrepreneur is defined as one who sees an opportunity to make money. With many willing greedy people looking for degrees, some entrepreneurs have developed diploma mill business. In Malawi, some of the prominent customers are politicians and celebrities. People with no primary or secondary education are now suddenly degree holders! We are not talking about honorary degrees only but apparent academic degrees!
The most curious case of such degrees is the case of Benson Malunga Phiri, the Director of Elections in the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who despite having no Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE), a first degree or a Masters degree, he got a Ph.D! I investigated this case to find out how this is possible. That’s when I stumbled upon the name of Ellen Mlamba. She calls herself Dr Ellen Nakanga Mlamba. She claims to have a Masters degree in Theology and Religious Studies from Cyprus Bible Institute, which does not exist, on May 10,2014. Less than one year later on 25th July,2015 she graduated with a ‘Ph.D in Humanities’ at Bingu International Conference Centre (BICC), Lilongwe from the same Institute this time calling itself “Cypress International Institute! Yes, she is such a genius she did her Ph.D in less than a year at an institute that does not exist!
Six others including Benson Malunga Phiri graduated with Ph.Ds on the same day in different areas of specialization. The areas of specialization were; leadership philosophy, humanities, business administration, management and computer science. The degrees were conferred by one “Professor’ T.G. Gadama who claims to have over a dozen degrees and 116 books to his name!
As I wrote in 2015, Cyprus International Institute does not exist. Neither does Cypress International Institute. The closest you get when you search on the internet is Cypress Bible College which offers Religious ‘degrees’. T.G. Gadama appears there as one of the ‘advisors’.
So how does it work? Simple! In Malawi, just call ‘Dr’ Ellen Nakanga Mlamba that you want to get a Masters degree in any field urgently, pay up and you will have it within three months! Pure work of conmen! Here are examples of how much you need to pay to get these fake degrees;
Master of Theology ($1130.00) Monthly $376.66 Per course $51.36 (22 courses)
Doctor of Theology ($1545.00) Monthly $515.00 Per course $59.42 (26 courses)
Ph.D. in Religion ($1830.00) Monthly $610.00 Per course $65.35 (28 courses)
Bachelor of Psychology $950.00 $316.66 Monthly, $59.37 per course. (16)
Bachelor of Sociology $950.00 $316.66 Monthly, $55.88 per course (17)
Even an honorary degree has a cost of $500!
What is worrying about these conmen offering degrees is that they are roping in influential people in order to legitimize the broad day light robbing of hapless and greedy people looking for academic credentials. In 2017, the ’Council’ for this non existent Cyprus International Institute comprised of some well known people like lawyer Bazuka Mhango as chairman, former official hostess Mama C.T. Kadzamira and musician Ethel Kamwendo as members among others.
In July, 2016 Uladi Mussa, the then People’s Party (PP) Acting President and current ruling DPP Vice President for the central region, wildly celebrated an honorary doctorate degree from the same bogus university. He was quoted by Nyasatimes as saying, “Cypress University did research and found out that I am the deserving politician for this honorary Ph.D. This is an honour to me, my family and my party.” He continued to say“ My hard work and tenacity has been greatly rewarded. I have always been a firm believer in hard work and I am extremely grateful for the recognition.”
Hilarious as that sounds, this is cause for big worry. The entire Vice President of a ruling party was duped by diploma mill conmen or depending on how you see it, he deliberately connived with the conmen to get an honorary doctorate to raise his profile.
Is it a matter of mere coincidence that those caught up in fake degree scams are also the same names that come up in various allegations of corruption and illegal self-enrichment? It seems to me that it is not simply a coincidence. In a country where corruption levels are on the rise, politicians who fall for these fake degrees can also easily fall for corrupt deals as long as they benefit. It is a question of character. Upright people cannot raise profiles with fake degrees.
Obviously something needs to be done to curb this tendency of getting fake credentials. It’s a big joke and a disease which if not cured, will bring laziness in education. No one can work hard to get a Ph.D for 5 years if it can easily be obtained within a year from a bogus institution. Politicians should stop rushing for these fake credentials.
The current glorification of fake degrees should end.
The views expressed in this article are not necessarily the views of the Publisher or the Editor of The Maravi Post