Unaccredited University in Tonga hands out questionable degrees

The opening ceremony of Commonwealth Vocational University.

By Kalafi Moala


Nuku’alofa, Tonga – The Commonwealth Vocational University (CVU) is not registered or accredited in the Kingdom of Tonga, according to Dr. ‘Opeti Pulotu, CEO of Tonga National Qualification and Accreditation Board (TNQAB). He said that no certificate of accreditation has been issued to CVU in Tonga, despite the University handing out honorary degrees.

CVU is not an University registered in Tonga. The only two universities registered and accredited in Tonga are University of the South Pacific (USP) and Christ’s University in Pacific, according to TNQAB.

The response from Tonga’s education qualification board comes at the heel of a news article featured on an Uganda based website PML Daily on 18 October, citing that CVU has appointed Luzindana Adam Buyinza, 38, as the East Africa Resident Director of the Commonwealth Vocational University in Tonga.

Luzindana Adam Buyinza (R) has been appointed East Africa Resident Director of Commonwealth Vocation University (PHOTO/Courtesy).

Luzindana is a Ugandan businessman and politician who is known to have done some assistance work for poor students in Uganda. He is also cited to have studied in China under a Ugandan Government commission, “where he attended high level sessions with leaders of the Communist Party of China.”

The PML Daily states that CVU is “a 21st Century new age learning institution providing specialist knowledge and quality education programs in a varied range of disciplines.” PML Daily also states that CVU “is the premier institution of higher learning across the Kingdom of Tonga, in the South Pacific Ocean.”

Amit Pandley, a recipient of an Honorary PhD degree by the Commonwealth Vocational University, 2020.

Another media outlet reports Amit Pandey was awarded honorary PhD Honoris Causa Doctorate by Commonwealth Vocational University, Kingdom of Tonga.

The impression given here is that CVU is a major learning institute in Tonga, but much search has revealed that CVU does not exist, except maybe on paper. The coverage reported by PML is not only misleading but maybe false.

The article also states that the University (CVU) was issued a Certificate of incorporation on 20th August 2014 and the Charter was approved on 13th November 2014. Incorporation as stated by CVU representative in Tonga, Rev. Toka Vainikolo, was done with the Ministry of Labour and Commerce, “but the application for TNQAB approval was still going through the normal process.”

But most people in Tonga have never heard of CVU. TNQAB admits however that CVU had lodged an application to be registered as an University “some years ago, but it was not approved.”

Back on 11 February 2016, Times of India reported that CVU was formally inaugurated by Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva on 6 February 2016 in a function where the current Prime Minister, Dr. Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa, who was then Minister of Police, attended, as well as the then Minister of Health Dr. Saia Piukala.

In a 2016 article, the Matangi Tonga reported that a new University for Tonga was inaugurated by the then Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva, “but it had not been properly assessed and accredited.”

But the East Africa resident director of CVU, Luzindana is coordinating and identifying Ugandans to be considered for honorary doctorates, according to Professor Ripu Ranjan Sinha of the University in Tonga, as quoted by PML Daily.

After much search for the professor, it became obvious there is no such a person residing in Tonga. In fact, the only sign of an educational institute that carries the name Commonwealth Vocational University is land in the village of Makaunga in the Easter District of Tongatapu. And on this land is a two-story building “that is not in use”, according to the CVU Tonga representative, Rev. Vainikolo.

The beginning of Commonwealth Vocational University

CVU, or the idea for it, was founded by a Tongan couple who live and work out of Auckland, New Zealand. Dr. Foueti Motuhifonua and his wife, Dr. Keasi Motuhifonua, are two of the pastors at the Tonga New Zealand Methodist Church in Otahuhu.

Dr Foueti Motuhifonua, founder of Commonwealth Vocation University

But the idea for an university in Tonga was conceived during the time Foueti and Keasi were studying at the Pune University in Pune, India. Both earned their degrees including the PhDs from Pune after several years of study there.

Foueti was a student at Tupou High School in Tonga; Keasi was at Tonga High School. They were both called to missionary work in India. After their marriage and subsequent missionary training, they left for India where they had special training to work among Muslims.

But the Motuhifonuas decided to go for higher learning and went to University at Pune. After their graduation with their PhDs, they took up residence in New Zealand, where they are now pastoring. The idea for the establishment of an University in Tonga never left them. And after several visits to Tonga they decided to go ahead with it.

Because Foueti and Keasi were Christian missionaries, there was the expectation when they first talked about CVU that it would be a Christian University. But the problem with this idea was the founders associated with them were not Christians. In fact, they were Hindus, Dr. Aftab Anwar and Professor Rakesh Mittal.

On 21st November 2018, late Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva officially launched CVU at the Scenic Hotel (now Kupesi Hotel) in Fua’amotu. Land had already been obtained for CVU at Makaunga village, and a building was in progress.

The Board of Directors for CVU then consisted of Halatuituia and his wife Lasale, an educator for many years. Also, on the Board was Rev. ‘Inoke Masima from New Zealand; Fakaola Lemani; Rev. Saia Latu; Dr’s Foueti and Keasi Motuhifonua; Soana Motuhifonua; Dr. Aftab Anwar, and Professor Rakesh Mittal, both from India.

There has not been any change yet to this Board of Directors for CVU, but there are questions raised locally in Tonga as to the status of this so-called University, having been falsely claimed that it was a premier institute of learning, and also planning to issue honorary degrees in Africa.

With so many false or fake institutions of learning set up in many countries offering degrees that can be bought online, it is obvious why the alarm goes up for a Tonga based university that does not seem to exist. The “Christian association” of the University has also raised eyebrows among church leaders. In a country where titles are socially important and sought after, particularly, educational degrees, we cannot be too careful to differentiate the real from that which is not.

Members of Cabinet at the opening ceremony of CVU


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