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Commentary: Guyana heading into international disgrace by entertaining fly-by-night 'universities'
Published on January 3, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

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By Dennis Adonis

Happy New Year everyone, and good luck on your quest for new and great things in 2017.

But for those who are wishing for new things, I urge you to be reminded by the notion that nothing will ever be new under the sun; because history has a strange way of repeating itself.

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Dennis Adonis is a Guyana-born international journalist, author, and software engineer. As of the May 1, 2015, he has written and published more than 20 books of various genres, in at least five languages. His work in international journalism is widely known; having written for some of the most respected print and digital media outfits in North America and Europe. From the Ebola crisis in Liberia, to the war in Ukraine, he has been on the ground covering some of the most breathtaking and intriguing news events in more than 30 countries worldwide. His literary website is at http://www.dennisadonis.com Contact the author at adonisbooks@gmail.com
That particular statement would certainly fit well with Guyana – because we are a nation that never seems to take the bad experiences of another country into account even when it comes to the most basic of issues, or even if the demographics and other factors are deeply related to our country’s circumstances.

As such, it should not be difficult for any observer to understand why our country continues to be a ‘jackass stable’ for the re-enactment of some of the most ridiculous historic events that would often lead to nothing less than international embarrassment.

(Jim Jones history is probably a very notable example.)

In other words, our country is always happy to repeat the silly mistakes of other nations, even if it will significantly disgrace us.

This is even more reinforcing when one is to consider the non-proactive and head-in-sand culture of some our leaders who are seemingly happy with any investment that reeks of international skullduggery and disgrace.

And even though we are a nation that believes in ‘show and tell’, ‘fancy gallop’, and ‘I had told you so’, we should have never been so stupid to entrust the national security of our educational system, and our country’s coveted academic reputation into the hands of shadowy foreigners with questionable educational investments.

Because in time to come the international damage that is in waiting might be too severe for us ever to repair.

And here is my reason for saying so:

Back in August 2005, the United States Secret Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were forced to launch “Operation Gold Seal” in a bid to bring down a diploma mill empire that was accredited in Liberia and which was granting bogus degrees, mostly to foreigners, including American citizens.

The empire was so extensive that it involved diplomats, prominent education officials, and powerful businessmen in Liberia who were indirectly profiting from a listing of related degree mills, thus making it difficult for any local law enforcement agency to investigate the operation of these universities.

While these degree mills were all related to the same gang of people, they operated under separate trade names like Capital American University, All Saints American University, West American University, Ameritech University, and Pan American University, among others – but all pointing to the Liberian “accredited” Saint Regis University, and James Monroe University.

After all, Saint Regis University and James Monroe University were officially accredited in Liberia, which was confirmed on the local accreditation body’s website, and by that country’s ministry of education.

So to the average Liberian, and even through the eyes of three successive presidents, Saint Regis University and James Monroe University were credible private medical universities that had certainly satisfied all of the necessary requirements to gain accreditation in Liberia.

Thus, the “accredited” qualifications from these offshore universities, which ranged from pediatrics, to pharmacy, ob-gyn, and general medicine, among others, were handed out to eager students.

And by all intents, there was nothing legally wrong with that in Liberia, because these universities were accredited by Liberia’s National [accreditation] Commission of Higher Education and the ministry of education, even though it was issuing degrees mostly to students outside of Liberia, and via a supposed US campus.

However, what those successive presidents, the aspiring students and most of the country did not know was that a Liberian diplomat named Abdulah Dunbar, who was his country’s deputy chief of mission to the United States, had teamed up with senior officials at Liberia’s ministry of education to sell accreditation status to Saint Regis University and several other related degree mills that were owned by foreigners.

Moreover, two additional Liberian diplomatic officials were also involved.

The most notable case in this regard was an accreditation from Liberia’s National [accreditation] Commission of Higher Education to the said Saint Regis University and Robertstown University, both of which subsequently made millions of dollars by handing out medical degrees and certifications to every Tom, Dick, and Harry for thousands of dollars each.

But what the Liberian diplomats, the government of Liberia, and the degree mill operators did not know was the fact that the United States FBI and the Secret Service, were investigating the overall operations of these inter-related degree mills in Liberia.

In the end, Liberians woke up to an international embarrassment in August 2005, after learning that the FBI had arrested the operators of the Liberian accredited university for fraud, and had also named several Liberian education officials, including three diplomats at the Liberian embassy in Washington DC, as co-conspirators

Of course this news broke on CNN and several other mainstream international newscasts which ensured that they put the Liberian education authorities and their government to long term shame.

Overtime, eight people made plea bargain deals with the Feds, and simply took a quick start on their jail time.

While there are more than a dozen other cases of a similar nature, I will leave observers with only the Liberia case, which can be self researched at the US Supreme Court using the following details: United States of America vs. Dixie Ellen Randock et al. US District Court of the Eastern District of Washington, Case No. CR-05-0180, filed October 5, 2005.

If that is too tedious for you to do, then follow this link here for a summary of the story and access to some downloadable court files on each convict that was involved.

But taking the Liberian disgraced accreditation experience into account, one has to agree that it is not impossible for a small country like Guyana, or any of the other smaller CARICOM states who are housing degree mills, to find themselves in a similarly disgraceful situation.

And though disgrace is always unwanted, my conversations with an officer assigned to the Department of Homeland Security had established that the operation of any degree mill that results in a terrorist being let into the United States is even worse.

This is because the US Department of Homeland Security has now considered degree mills a threat to America’s national security since undercover research has showed that a would-be terrorist might be able to obtain a degree from a supposedly accredited university in another country and then use same to enter the United States as an extremely skilled person under an H1B visa that is often reserved for that class of persons.

As such, though the Liberia accreditation scenario had given the US a wake-up call, federal agents have since decided to put every potential degree mill under the microscope. And Guyana or the rest of the Caribbean is not an exception to that rule.

That being the case, one is urged to ask whether the Guyana government has actually ensured that due diligence was done on the various ‘universities’ that have been set up in this country by foreigners.

Why did they actually set up these offshore newbie universities here?

Are these people carrying on an operation that is in the interest of our country, our national pride and our national security or is just trying to make some money?

Who are the players in Guyana that are benefiting from this academic travesty?

Why is the minister of education running away from a clear cut interview about these universities?

Why won’t the Guyana government hold a public inquiry on these universities?

Who are the people that are actually profiting from this scheme?

My short answer to the above will point to the fact that these people, who themselves are unqualified, are targeting economically desperate countries like Guyana to use as a mother ship for their degree mills.

Because by all international accounts, a newly established offshore university is a disaster in waiting, especially if they are not a branch of an already well established and internationally accredited institution (like Ross University in Dominica and American University of the Caribbean in St Maarten, both of which are owned by the US accredited DeVry University) or were established by an appropriate act of a country’s parliament (like St George’s University in Grenada).

All of the above universities were established since in the 1970s and took more than 30 years to attain proper international recognition.

Thus, there is no private university in the Caribbean region that has received international accreditation under the ownership of one person, and outside the stewardship of the respective country’s government.

Therefore, any university that seeks to establish itself outside of the earlier mentioned criteria would have been doing so to profiteer from the academic desperation of would be students, and will be naturally issuing bogus degrees.

These kinds of institutions are often able to function openly in countries where oversight is poor, and corruption is heavily embedded in its business culture.

Their operations are sometimes backed by corrupt politicians, diplomats, and even prominent people who are often a part of these institutions’ backbone itself.

Therefore, reporting on them or investigating them can often be saddled with stiff opposition or PR repulsion from local beneficiaries, until the FBI walks in and grabs up the culprits.

All of that aside, let’s put our common sense to the most basic questions regarding this.

Firstly, if our state funded national university – the University of Guyana – cannot get many of its degrees accepted abroad, why would Guyanese be so stupid to believe that a degree from Texila or any one of the other fly-by-night universities would be accepted?

If medical doctors, whose training is recognized in Cuba and was conducted under strict accreditation standards of the Cuban government, cannot have their medical degrees recognized by the rest of the Caribbean, why would anyone believe that a bogus medical degree from any of these fly-by-night private universities in Guyana would be recognized?

And if the regionally supported University of the West Indies has been struggling for over ten years to put together a Master’s Degree program in Alternative Medicine, and a PhD in Alternative Medicine for public offer, why are Guyanese so stupid to believe that a fly-by-night university with no accreditation can actually put together one in ten days and issue them with a recognized qualification?

(NOTE: Texila is actually offering this degree in Guyana.)

But then again, the world has two types of people; – those who are the hammer and those who are the nail.

And of course these fly-by-night universities may be enjoying being the big sized hammer, because they are happily beating the daylight out of those poor nails who can’t seem to wake up to the reality that “they are wasting away three to five years of their precious lives on a degree program that would never be recognized”.

Can’t say I didn’t tell them so.
 
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