MASERU — Thirteen National University of Lesotho (NUL) students have been convicted of forging their Cambridge Overseas School Certificates to enroll at the university.
The Maseru Magistrate’s Court slapped each student with a one-year sentence.
They could however avoid going to jail if they pay a fine of M1 000.
The magistrates’ court said the students should raise the money in the next 30 days, starting from Monday last week, if they want to avoid going to jail.
During the trial, the court heard that the students also used the fraudulent certificates to get scholarships from the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS).
This brings to 62 the number of students at NUL who are being investigated by the police over fake certificates.
So far 35 of the suspects have appeared in court.
The students misrepresented to NUL when they produced fake COSC certificates claiming they had been issued by the Examinations Council of Lesotho.
They were sentenced to one year or pay a fine of M1 000.
They were given one month to pay their fine.
Police spokesperson Masupha Masupha had told the Lesotho Times that there is a syndicate that is targeting students who would have failed.
“At first we thought that other districts were not affected but as investigations intensified we discovered that this is a nationwide problem,” Masupha said.
“This syndicate seems to have hired agents countrywide who tout students and their parents to buy fake certificates.”
The price of a bogus certificate ranges between M2 000 and M8 000, he said.
Masupha said to prevent this kind of fraud, the certificates should have security features that will be difficult to forge.
He said they are currently concentrating on tertiary institutions but will soon raid workplaces to investigate if there are some culprits who have already graduated.
“It’s very unfortunate that some people who have worked hard to earn better results never get a chance to further their studies because these ones take their chances of getting scholarships using fake certificates,” he said.
“The forged certificates have the ‘A’ grades that give the tertiary institutions an impression that these are brilliant students who deserve to further their studies,” he added.
The NUL fake certificates scandal comes barely seven months after police arrested some Ecol and Limkokwing University of Creative Technology officials who were suspected of being part of a syndicate that produced bogus certificates for 43 students.