Johannesburg - Hundreds of pupils could find themselves without a school when they return for the second term after officials busted three schools in Yeoville for operating illegally.
On Monday, officials from the Gauteng Department of Education and the City of Joburg conducted a blitz in the area’s schools to ensure that schools had their papers in order and were not placing pupils’ wellbeing at risk.
The three schools that were raided, some of which were operating from more than one premises, were busted for flouting regulations and are facing closure.
Greenfields Primary School, which has 54 children, is made up of two classrooms and the principal’s office.
The classes are multi-grade – pupils from up to three different grades are taught in the same class at the same time – which is illegal.
The school is housed in a two-storey building, which is also home to a hair salon, a travel agency, an import-and-export business, a church, shops and what appeared to be a storage facility.
One of the shops, in a room facing the principal’s office and neighbouring one of the classrooms, sold raw fish, and the stench filled the corridor.
The department’s spokeswoman, Phumla Sekhonyane, said it was illegal for a school to operate from the same premises as other businesses or organisations.
She said the school had applied in 2012 to operate last year, but the department turned the application down because the premises were not zoned for schooling.
It appears that the school went ahead anyway and opened without the department’s approval.
Another school, Sheik Anta Diop Kindergarten was also found to be operating illegally, although no pupils were present at the time of the raid.
Sekhonyane said the school had also applied for registration with the department, but its application was declined as it did not meet some of the requirements.
During Monday’s bust, staff at the school told officials they would close shop voluntarily within two days.
Sekhonyane said the case was in the police’s hands.
“It’s a law enforcement matter. They were operating illegally, so the law must take its course,” she said.
It is not the first time that the school has been in hot water. In February 2012, it was busted for operating from several sites in addition to the address it had on the forms sent to the department for approval.
During that 2012 blitz, two people were arrested and charged with committing fraud and contravening section 47 of the SA Schools Act.
Police officers, who spoke to The Star during that blitz, said people fell prey to these schools usually around the time of year when desperate parents who had not found space for their children in public schools resorted to independent schools without being aware that they were not registered.
The area’s councillor, Sihlwele Myeni, said illegal schools were a common problem in the area.
“They crop up all over the place. There’s a high demand for education and many of the parents are not aware that these schools are operating illegally,” he said.
Myeni said although many of the pupils in these schools were South African, a majority of the pupils were foreigners.
The third school targeted was Bellevue Primary.