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Education consultancies putting pressure on probe team to not recommend action against them

  • A leader of the umbrella body of consultancies said they have the ‘power’ to transfer government officials who spread ‘negativity’ about them
- Binod Ghimire, Kathmandu

Mar 7, 2019-

Education consultancies have intensified lobbies to put pressure on a probe team under the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology to not recommend action against them for sending hundreds of students to an unaccredited institute in Australia and putting their futures in limbo.

The ministry, on February 24, had formed an investigation committee led by a joint-secretary and given it seven days to investigate how the students were sent for a nursing course in an institute that didn’t have validation from the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Accreditation Council.

However, the committee hasn’t submitted its report even after two weeks since its formation.

Last month, the Australian Skills Quality and Authority (ASQA), Australia’s regulatory body, had revoked the vocational education and training accreditation of Australia Institute of Business and Technology, where at least 740 Nepali students were enrolled in the diploma in nursing programme. A preliminary investigation by the probe team showed around 150 Nepali consultancies were listed as ‘agents’ of the institute and were involved in sending students to Australia.

An official at the education ministry told the Post that the consultancies are claiming that they cannot be held accountable because it was the Nepali government which issued the No Objection Certification to the students and that it was the Australian government that granted them visas.

“They have been lobbying to ensure no action is taken against them,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity as he feared retribution from senior officials.

Government officials also told the Post that some of the top consultancies have strong political connections, which they have been using to build pressure to have the results in their favour.

A leader of the umbrella bodies of the consultancies told the Post that they have the “power” to transfer government officials, including diplomats, if they don’t rule in the consultancies’ favour.

Representatives of the Kathmandu-based education consultancies are particularly unhappy with Drupada Sapkota, the acting Nepali Ambassador to Australia, who is taking an initiative to expose the ‘malpractice’ that exists in the business of sending students to study abroad. The leader, who is the former chief of Education Consultancy Association of Nepal, said Sapkota was “spreading negativity” against them and they could get her transferred.

In an interview with the Post last week, Sapkota had said the Australian authorities told her that the government took action against the institute that failed to demonstrate its marketing practices as accurate and factual and now it was time for the government of Nepal to punish the consultancies involved in malpractices.

A former official at the Nepali Embassy in Canberra said the consultancies are using the money they earn to influence political parties and the bureaucracy in Kathmandu.

“One of the reports against the consultancies, which we sent to the Foreign Ministry, was leaked to the consultancies immediately. You can now imagine their power,” said the official, seeking anonymity to speak openly about the relationship between politicians and education consultancies.

A close aide to Education Minister Giriraj Mani Pokharel, in an interview on Wednesday, hinted that there were slim chances of any action being taken against the consultancies.

“I don’t think our existing law allows for action in the present case,” the aide told the Post, seeking anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “I don’t have reports of their lobby, but even you know close relatives of the top leaders are running the consultancies.”

The investigation team led by Dev Kumari Guragain, joint-secretary at the ministry, had written to all the consultancies two weeks ago, asking them to provide details of the students studying in the Sydney-based institute. The consultancies were also asked to clarify in writing what plans they have for the transfer of, and compensation to, the students who have been affected.

“We are studying the details the consultancies have sent,” Guragain said. “It will take some days for the committee to complete the report.”

Published: 07-03-2019 07:23

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