Action threatened against unregistered school that charges R850 per month

“The owner … only cares about money, not the education of our children” says parent

By Thembi Siaga

21 March 2024

Photo of school

Ziggy Primary School in Mpheni, Limpopo, is not registered according to the education department. Photo: Thembi Siaga

A school in Mpheni village, Limpopo, catering to children up to Grade 5, may soon be closed, and its approximately 150 children will have to find a new educational home. The school, according to the Limpopo Department of Education, has never been registered. Yet for at least two years it has been collecting money from parents while not offering accredited tuition.

Ziggy Children’s Centre opened its doors in about 2018. Initially, it functioned as an early childhood development centre. When exactly the institution started catering to school children is uncertain, but in June 2022, it received building materials from a local store under a philanthropic program.

The signboard at the school refers to the “Ziggy Primary School”, with its motto being “Dedicated to building the nation”.

Matome Taueatsoala, spokesperson for Limpopo MEC for education Mavhungu Lerule-Ramakhanya, stated a week ago that the school is not registered.

“No person may establish or maintain an independent school unless it is registered by the head of the department. The records are very clear that the school is not registered. A team will be dispatched to conduct further investigations. The school will be closed, and learners will be transferred to public schools,” he said.

Some of the parents we spoke to started suspecting last year that there were issues with the school’s registration. They claim they were led from pillar to post by the owner. When they demanded an EMIS (Education Management Information Systems) number, they say they were told the registration was pending.

There is no Ziggy Primary School registered with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission. There is a private company, Ziggy Children’s Centre, that was registered in February 2018 with a Thohoyandou address. The directors are Ms Elizabeth Makondo from Vuwani along with Mr Herbert Zigara and his wife, Rugare Zigara. The status of the company is indicated as being in “final deregistration” because of outstanding reports and payments.

According to parents, Rugare Zigara is in charge at the school. We phoned her but she was evasive and refused to answer questions. She referred us to an attorney, Thabelo Nengwekhulu.

After missing our deadline, Nengwekhulu told us: “It is unfortunate at this stage our client has not responded to us as yet. We would have loved to have our client’s side of the response heard.”

“I’m sure you have other stories to run while you wait; this can’t possibly be the biggest story you can write.”

He ended by saying, “The year is long; let’s not disturb the learners yet. They just finished the first term. Let’s play nice for them.”

The school charges a monthly fee of R850 for the senior grade learners, and a R300 registration fee is payable. New learners also have to pay a R500 “table levy”.

Parents the Limpopo Mirror spoke to asked to remain anonymous. They were upset that they had to pay to attend an “illegal” school.

One parent, who said they they had asked the school for registration details, said, “They told us that the district is busy with it. She [Zigara] sent us the phone number of someone who claimed that he was from the Elim circuit, but some of us discovered that he was not from the circuit.”

The parent also said that two years ago parents threatened to disrupt the school, but Zigara calmed the waters by promising discounted fees.

According to parents, what attracted them to the school was that its learners could speak English fluently. One parent said what worries them now is that there are allegations that the learners wrote exams while being assisted.

The parent said their children are unable to write or read well.

“Another burning issue is that the school also has pupils with disabilities, and they need a special school. The owner seems like she only cares about money, not the education of our children,” a parent said.

This is a shortened version of a story co-published with Limpopo Mirror.