Cape Town – The English language school industry in South Africa could collapse within weeks or months, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Fatima Chohan was told on Monday.
She took part in a workshop on South African visa requirements, hosted by Wesgro (the destination marketing, investment and trade promotion agency for the Western Cape).
A number of English language schools in South Africa might have to close their doors soon, because of the silo approach between the Departments of Labour, Home Affairs and Higher Education, said a school owner during question time at the workshop.
He told Chohan that his English language schools will have to shut down soon if the various departments do not sort out problems in the sector so that prospective students from abroad can obtain their student visas.
He has already had to let some staff members go, he said.
“The current visa situation is making it impossible for the English language schools to sustain themselves through the high season which is starting,” the attendee said.
Another attendee, who said he started his first English language school in SA in 1991, said he has so far this year had to refund R150 000 to prospective students who did not manage to obtain visas.
“Home Affairs must become jacked up on the issue. If they are worried about fraud, they must follow up on the cases where students arrive in the country and then do not attend the school; we report those cases, but nothing gets done about it by Home Affairs,” he said.
Yet another workshop attendee said his school will have to close down soon, because for the past ten years he has been “pushed from one department to another and even made a presentation to Parliament at some point about the problems in the sector. The two silos of the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Higher Education are not communicating with each other.”
Wesgro CEO Tim Harris said the workshop has shown him how complicated the relationship between the Departments of Labour, Home Affairs, Higher Education and even Trade and Industry is.
“Maybe we should invite other departments to our next visa workshop too,” said Harris.
Chohan responded that she would be willing to facilitate a meeting with the Department of Higher Education on the issue.
She said the Department of Higher Education has certain standards and that there is no provision for the registration of English language schools in the department’s framework.
Chohan said in Gauteng the department found cases where people would come to South Africa from abroad as English language students, only to “throw away their passports and claim asylum, which allows them to stay in SA longer”.