Illegal school in Limpopo closed, but parents ask why it took so long

Parents fear their children have lost years of education and will be held back

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Ziggy Primary School in Mpheni, Limpopo, has been closed by the education department. Archive photo: Thembi Siaga

An unregistered school, operating since 2019, was closed by the Limpopo Department of Education on 9 April. Provincial spokesperson Mosebjane Kgaffe said the 94 learners who were at Ziggy Primary in Mpheni village, Vhembe, had now been placed in public schools. Some parents have placed their children in private schools.

In March, GroundUp and Limpopo Mirror reported that the school was not registered with the education department and was charging R850 a month for unaccredited tuition. It was run by a private company, Ziggy Children’s Centre, with directors Elizabeth Makondo, Rugare Zigara and her husband, Herbert.

It is unclear if any of the teachers had recognised qualifications or were registered with the South African Council for Educators.

Parents are concerned that their children’s education was below standard and fear children in grades R to 5 will now be held back.

Learners will be subjected to baseline assessments, especially maths and English, said Kgaffe.

Parents are left with many questions. Fushanani Munyai said Ziggy Primary was nearby and offered smaller classes than other schools. He only became aware it was operating illegally through the Limpopo Mirror. The owners had assured parents the registration was “in process”.

Munyai said he had trusted that the authorities would not have allowed a school to operate illegally. The school even won a national competition in June 2022, run by a national hardware franchise. Parents were told the exams their children wrote were moderated by the department of education.

It would seem the department only took action after the Limpopo Mirror report was published on 23 March.

Kgaffe did not respond to our questions as to when the department became aware of Ziggy Primary.

We tried numerous times to obtain comment from Zigara before the March report. She referred us to attorney Thabelo Nengwekhulu, who was evasive. After the March report, Nengwekhulu was replaced by another attorney, who has not responded.

We contacted Zigara again on 11 April. She accused Limpopo Mirror of not having given her a right of reply. “You can call the school principal, Noah, to give you our side of the story,” she said.

Calls made to Noah went unanswered.

Later, a Mr Sithagu, claiming to be the school governing body secretary, contacted us: “Leave her to rest, and it seems people are happy with what happened. But now she doesn’t owe anyone an explanation, and now that you have my number, talk to me”.

TOPICS:  Education

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Dear Editor

I used to have high regard of private schools. In fact, I worked at one of them from 2002 to 2004. The standard was really high as the education provided was of good quality. Nowadays, private schools just have a history that parents are paying for. Marks are inflated and only meant to impress the paying parents. Few private schools really provide quality education. We admitted several learners from a nearby closed school, they couldn't compare academically with those from ours. Our parents just trust schools that are run by non-South Africans. Some South Africans agree to be the face of the top management at the expense of their fellow South Africans, with the sole purpose of defrauding the citizens.

I feel for the unsuspecting and frustrated parents.

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