It took me fifteen years before I decided to become a member of the APPETD. The APPETD was established in 1997 as a national body representing the interests of private providers. In time the APPETD has come to be recognised as a reputable body that works towards maintaining the highest standards of education and training throughout the industry. The organisation provides several chambers to cater for the needs of its members, including private providers offering one or more of face-to-face learning, distance learning, ABET, and ECD.
As you well know, us private learning institutions have a really hard time trying to convince the DHET of the important contribution that we make to the education and training of the South African community. Because of this we sometimes feel short-done and discriminated against, and in some instances we actually are right. It is really frustrating when nobody would listen to one’s complaints to the point that one actually considers taking legal steps against the DHET, SETAs, quality assurance bodies, etc.
Once, when I really did not know what else to do I decided to speak to the Minister personally. It took me weeks to get an appointment and then also only with one of the Minister’s Directors. This actually turned out to be a rather constructive visit. Of course I hinted that the Minister regards himself too important to speak to us lesser mortals; then I explained my frustration to the Director. He was a most kind and understanding person, and agreed that my complaint is valid. However, he said, the Minister will not listen to just one private provider. The problem that I had (the refusal of the CHE/HEQC to recognise unit standard-based qualifications, which made it impossible for us to accredit for HE) applied to almost all private learning institutions, and if I could muster the support of a large enough number of private providers the Minister would have no other choice but to listen to us.
Rather than to start from scratch I felt that the APPETD is probably the right body to deal with such issues, so I decided to join them. The reason why I did not join earlier is because your membership fee is linked to the annual turnover of your business, and quite of a number of the people serving on the APPETD Board are private providers, i.e. my competition, and I was not prepared to give them any information on Mentornet’s turnover. I discussed this with Cynthia Reynders, CEO of the APPETD. She assured me that the turnover of applicants is treated as confidential and other private providers do not have access to this information. Even so, what you pay to become a member already gives them a good idea of what your annual turnover is, and although Cynthia assured me that membership fees are also treated with circumspection I still feel they should find a less sensitive manner in which to determine membership fees.
Point is, the more dependent the APPETD is of government for funding and status, the less will they be able to serve the interests of private learning institutions. We need to embrace them as our voice with government and quality assurance bodies and the more private learning institutions join them the better will they be able to serve our needs. Of course we are entitled to getting value for our money. However, having spoken to the current CEO and having witnessed what they already do I am satisfied that the APPETD is extremely important for our status, recognition and survival.
Aside from paying membership fees we can empower the APPETD to serve our interests by not being an embarrassment for them. The Minister will most certainly not take notice of an organisation that represents a bunch of fly-by-nights, so don’t be surprised of the APPETD refuses you membership if you cannot provide evidence that you are a professional learning institution that is serious about offering high quality education and training.
Dr Hannes Nel, MD Mentornet