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By Dimakatso Modipa

Angry Nellmapius parents outside the gate of the "so called private school at the backyard in Nellmapuis, Tshwane photo by Dimakatso Modipa
Angry Nellmapius parents outside the gate of the “so called private school at the backyard in Nellmapuis, Tshwane photo by Dimakatso Modipa

Aggrieved residents of Nellmapius this morning gathered at an illegal school run from a backyard of an RDP house in Extension 7 to raise their dissatisfaction.

One woman resident told Tshwane Talks that they as residents don’t want the school in their area as they as community members have never been informed and consulted about the establishment of the school as is the norm whenever a school or any government project is implemented.

“This school operates underground, and we don’t even know where the owners of this school come from” she said emphatically.

“These people are foreigners and they come here and do as they wish while we as South Africans won’t be able to go to their countries and do as we wish,” said another woman.

“If the government agrees with the establishment of a school for foreigners in our area, then the government must come to us and tell us so,” she said.

We want the government to shut down the school with immediate effect or else we ourselves will shut it down and organise transport to the Department of Education offices and demand to know as to how these foreigners obtained permission to build a backyard school in our area, which is an RDP settlement, area” she said.

Yet another woman told Tshwane Talks that though the school has been operating for some time in the backyard of a house in the area, she as a resident only found out about the existence of the school this past Sunday at a community meeting.

“When we as residents confronted the school owners on Monday regarding the establishment of this school, the owners told us that they have registered the school with the Department of Education,” she said.

She said their response regarding the school being registered with the Education Department raised doubts in their minds.

This as the Department of Education would under normal circumstances not allow a school to operate from a backyard.

“Learners at this school are packed and overcrowded inside these make-shift classrooms and no proper education activity is taking place here,” she fumed.

According to some residents, the school is a “fly-by-night” institution, and its owners are on a money-making exercise.

“I bet there are no South African children attending this school because this school is run secretly and Ramaphosa must also come here and tell us as to where these foreigners got permission to operate this illegal school in our area,” said an elderly woman.

A backyard private school in Nellmapius, Tshwane photo by Dimakatso Modipa
A backyard private school in Nellmapius, Tshwane photo by Dimakatso Modipa

A highly placed close source inside the school who wish to remain anonymous told Tshwane Talks that the school started operating in January this year.

Anonymous said the school in Nellmapius is a satellite branch as they have the main school in the Pretoria CBD.

“We established this very school here in Nellmapius because parents of learners complained about transport costs and asked us to establish a nearby satellite school to eliminate transport costs” anonymous said.

Anonymous said the owners of the school searched for a place to establish the school near where the learners live and concluded that the backyard of the said RDP house in Nellmapius Extension 7 was most suitable.

Anonymous revealed that the school was intended to be a small institution but that the owners of the school are themselves surprised by the rapid increase of learners at the school.

“The school operates as a private entity and has enrolled learners for Grade R to Grade 11 classes,” anonymous said.

“From Grade R to Grade 2 the school charges R800 a month, for Grade 3 to 7 the fees are R1000, for Grade 8 to 9 it’s R1 200, and for Grade 10 and 11 parents of learners have to part with R1 500 a month,” anonymous said.

According to the inside source, there are eight teachers at the school. The local residents of Nellmapius Extension 7 knew about the school all along and that it was only now that they are raising grievances about the school, this as they are now jealous because the school is thriving.

“The school offers a Cambridge curriculum, which is an international syllabus controlled by the British Education Council and the medium of instruction is English all the way,” revealed the source.

Anonymous insisted that contrary to popular belief, the school has two South African learners but admitted that it is predominantly populated by children of foreigners.

“We place an ad last year in Facebook about renting rooms and they contacted us and told us that they would like to open a school and they want to rent the whole rooms and they show us the original papers of the school and we let them use the rooms for school,” said family spokesperson Bongani Mohlambe who rented the place.

“We will wait for the department of education to confirm if this school is legit or not, if the school is legit then the school stays but if the school is not then the community win,” Mohlambe said.

“We must follow the rules of the country and there are home teaching and many people have applying for it and are doing it and many learners are at home because there is no space at public school and that is why people have started the private school, but community have problems with it,” he said.

“First of all we must be upfront in condemning the establishment of a primary education institution in an area zoned for residential purposes,” said Ward Councillor Joel Masilela when speaking to Tshwane Talks on Wednesday morning regarding the backyard school.

“First, this school is run by foreigners and we don’t know if they are in South Africa legally and secondly, we do not know if the qualifications of the teaching staff here are recognised by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQUA), and thirdly, it is illegal for any persons to implement an education model that is not recognised by our country’s education system even though that education model may be purported to be of the highest level globally,” said Masilela.

He said he will be back at the backyard school on Friday at 14h30 and expressed hope that on that day the Department of Education will pronounce on the legality or illegality of the school.

Masilela said he only became aware of the existence of the backyard school on Monday this week.

“I am not omnipotent, I am not God, and I therefore can’t be everywhere all the time, but I rely on information supplied to us by vigilant residents on some matters, like in the case of this backyard school,” explained Masilela.

Tshwane Talks was unable to get comment from the backyard school’s owner known as Mr Lee he indicated that he was rushing somewhere and would only be able to talk to us at a meeting of stakeholders scheduled for Friday at the school, which is called Saint Ignatius College.

Attempts to get comment from the Department of Education were unsuccessful at the time of publishing this story.

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