The bogus Inter-American Nursing School which was at the centre of a fraud scandal in January has reopened under a similar name, though its operations have not yet been approved by the National Accreditation Council of Guyana (NAC).
The owner, Nanda Kissoon, applied for registration earlier this year but the NAC recently made it clear that no institution had been registered so far for this year and that the body is currently processing registration applications.
The courses being offered at the Nursing School therefore are not recognized in Guyana and it is an offence to offer courses to the public that are not registered with the Council.
Several months ago an advertisement began running in the Sunday editions of the Stabroek News under the heading, School of Nursing – Inter-American and School of Pharmacy – Inter-American.
Last week, this newspaper contacted Kissoon through one of the numbers on the advertisement and she confirmed that the institution was hers and later said that classes had already begun.
The school is offering courses in nursing, patient care technology, Phlebotomy Technology, Pharmacy, Medical Laboratory Assistance nad Surgical Technology as well as for transcriptionists.
According to the advertisements, the Nursing School located at 5 Cummings Street and North Road with branches in Essequibo, Berbice and Bartica offers an “international/USA recognized degree in accordance with the Ministry of Education.”
The council, following a visit by this newspaper to its office at the Ministry of Education’s Lot 69 location last week, printed a disclaimer advertisement in today’s edition of the newspaper.
According to the disclaimer, “It shall be an offence for an institution to offer the public courses that are not registered with the Council” in accordance with Part Five of the National Accreditation Act #12 of 2004.
The advertisement further said that the Council is presently processing applications for registration and advised the public that the School of Nursing University and the Peace Studies University are “neither registered with the Council nor in accordance with the Ministry of Education.”
It went on to say that the council is contemplating taking action against all institutions that are in violation of the act.
The NAC Bill was passed in Parliament in July, 2004 and the then education minister Dr Henry Jeffrey said it was an integral part of quality assurance.
The bill, according to a GINA release dated July 22, 2004, catered for the establishment of a council which shall be the principal body in Guyana for conducting and advising the accreditation and recognition of educational and training institutions, providers, programmes and awards, whether foreign or national and for the promotion of the quality and standard of education and training in Guyana.
“The council will provide for the advancement of education, learning skills and knowledge; ensure that the quality of all post secondary delivered meets the standards set by the council to the qualifications and certificates conferred or awarded; ensure that the appropriate standards set by the council are being maintained and improved; protect the interests of students; and promote the free movement of skills and knowledge within the Caribbean,” the release added.
The NAC was established in 2005 after a consultant from the Caricom Secretariat conducted an exercise in Suriname, Barbados and Guyana and found the climate here conducive to establishing such a council.
Kissoon was arrested in January days after Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy accused her of a bogus nursing education outfit. Hundreds of unsuspecting young people were scammed of large sums of money which they had paid for their respective courses.
While being held, the woman repaid some of the students their money and then she was released on $100,000 bail.
However the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) later recommended that no charges be laid against the woman and it still remains unclear why that decision was made.
From reports students were nor refunded all the money they had paid to the woman. In the days after her release payouts continued from a home in Duncan Street said to be where Kissoon’s parents resided.
Dr Ramsammy had called the school “a skilful little operation” that was posing as legitimate and duping young people across the country.
During an interview with this newspaper “to clear the air” Kissoon claimed that her school was legitimate and was a branch of the School of Nursing University, in New Jersey, USA.
However this newspaper failed to verify this after several online checks. She repeatedly vowed to reopen since according to her she had done nothing wrong.
During a two-week period this newspaper visited the Nursing School but it was locked up and the area deserted. A sign on the front of the building said Medical University.
When contacted last week she said that she will be officially launching her school next month and that persons in and outside of Georgetown have so far been responding well.
Kissoon said that after “my problem” the Education Ministry was monitoring schools like hers and she has since registered with the council, which was not in operation at the time she opened that school.
When quizzed more about her programmes, the woman said that the theory will be done at the Cummings Street and North Road location while all practical sessions will be done at “various pharmacies and hospital.”
She stated that for the courses, there are two exams: a US based one and a local one which will be reviewed by the Ministry of Education.
The woman insisted during the telephone conversation that false allegations were made against her by Ramsammy and that she had done nothing wrong.
According to her the relevant persons have visited her school once so far and that classes for all the courses have started ahead of the October launching which she said this newspaper will be invited to.
The woman repeatedly said that she did not want any more “bad publicity” but would rather this newspaper write a positive story prior to the launching.
Kissoon was said to have been the person operating the Instant Medical Lab in 1996 at the corner of North and Alexander Street where persons were treated for a range of illness. At that time, Kissoon was conducting her unauthorized business under another name. However,she was never arrested in relation to this.
Quizzed recently Chairman of the NAC, Khemraj Rai said that looking into Kissoon’s past is not a criterion for her application which is pending.
He noted that the law does not provide for preventing anyone from operating, rather it provides for the courts to fine any such person for operating in violation of the act.
Rai later pointed out that the council has no authority to close her down but she can be fined every time she is in violation of the act. She can be denied registration and/or her registration can be revoked, he told this newspaper.
Now making regulations
Rai said that if an institution is not registered with the council, it does not come under the scrutiny of the council but it is “obliged to prosecute that institution.”
He was however quick to point out that no one has yet been prosecuted since the council is now in the process of making regulations and in the process of registering institutions.
“The council came into being in 2004 and for all the practical purposes, did not function effectively,” Rai told this newspaper.
Stabroek News was reliably informed that the NAC met back in February after more than a one year break from its operations.
Members are drawn from a variety of institutions including the Education Ministry, the National Centre for Educational Research Development (NCERD), the Guyana Bar Association, the Medical Council and the Guyana Association of Professional Engineers (GAPE).
Nursery, primary and secondary schools are required to register with the Education Ministry while all post-secondary institutions such as Nursing Schools fall under the NAC.
To register with the NAC one has to fill out a registration form and pay a non-refundable fee of $50 000.
Information contained in the application form must be first confirmed by the NAC before an institution’s operations are approved.
Rai explained to this newspaper that an institution is registered while its programmes are accredited. The criteria for accreditation, he said are rather stringent and the process requires extensive research and investigation.
He pointed out that one such criterion is that the programme content must meet the standards equivalent to an already accredited programme of similar nature.
All checks on study materials, for example, textbooks are carried out by a panel comprising staff of the NAC, Rai said, before stressing that there must be at least one expert in the field in which the courses are being offered.