Education Dept red-flags ‘spaza school’

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A residential tutoring centre that recently opened in Sunnyside believes it’s providing a useful service to people wanting to rewrite matric – and provide work for graduates to boot. But a district education official has red-flagged it, warning members of the public not to pay money to unregistered “spaza schools”.

Founder of the Resurrection matric school at 29 Hill Street Elvias Ntantala believes he and his team of formerly unemployed graduates are providing a valuable service to people who want to improve on their matric results. Ntantala says the school, which opened on 22 January, provides education to people who have written matric, but haven’t achieved an exemption, as well as those who want to improve their results.

Ntantala says their aim is to improve the matric pass rate in Grahamstown and that he believes he has the best revision teachers. The graduates ran a similar programme in Dutywa, Ntantala told Grocott’s Mail. They also provide self-catering accommodation for girls as part of the programme.

They charge R400 for registration and an additional R550 monthly tuition fee. Self-catering accommodation costs R500 a month. Classes run from 7.45am to 2pm daily. At the time of the interview, Ntantala said around 30 children had enrolled; however, the school isn’t equipped in any traditional way with desks and chairs.

“We don’t call ourselves a school because we’re not registered as an educational institution and don’t have a centre number,” Ntantala said.

“There are those who apply to write exams but have no one to help them,” said Ntantala. “We don’t believe in an age restriction for education. We believe anyone can get an education.”

He said he hoped the Department of Education would visit the school, assess it, and help them register and obtain a centre number.

Ntantala said they were giving Grahamstown school children private tuition and used past question papers to assist the pupils in their revision. The teachers were previously unemployed qualified graduates, he said.

The company started with two people, but now employs seven teachers and a cleaner, Ntantala said.

However, Grahamstown Cluster Manager of the Education Department’s Sarah Baartman District, Mluleki  Ndabeni warned that attending an unregistered school left members of the public open to exploitation.

“The school is not registered and that is not allowed,” Ndabeni said.

He was unimpressed with the fact that they were doing revision with past question papers.

“Anyone can go out and get question papers. These days, you can go and download them,” Ndabeni said.

“If you want to run a school, one has to be registered with the Department of Education. Everyone has to go through them.”

Ndabeni said he hadn’t heard of the school until questioned about it by Grocott’s Mail.

He said the fact that the business was employing people was not enough of an argument to run an unregistered school.

“Opening a school is not like opening a spaza shop,” Ndabeni said. “Whatever else is said, people are paying to attend a school that is not registered.

“It’s not fair to exploit people like that. If I may say, without generalising, people from the township will take what is happening or hosted in town (inner city) as legit and they are there quick to be victims of bogus schools.

“They can be prepared to pay more than necessary as well because they want the best for their kids – but then fall prey to such schools,” Ndabeni said.

WHAT DOES THE LAW SAY ABOUT PRIVATE SCHOOLS?

The South African Schools Act No. 84 OF 1996 says:

Establishment of independent school:

Subject to this Act and any applicable provincial law, any person may, at his or her 10 own cost. establish and maintain an independent school.

Registration of independent school:

1) No person may establish or maintain an independent school unless it is registered by the Head of Department.
(2) The Member of the Executive Council must, by notice in the Provincial Gazette, determine the grounds on which the registration of an independent school may be granted or withdrawn by the
Head of Department.
(3) A Head of Department must register an independent school if he or she is satisfied that:
(a) the standards to be maintained by such school will not be inferior to the standards in comparable public schools;
(b) the admission policy of the school does not discriminate on the grounds of race; and
(c) the school complies with the grounds for registration contemplated in subsection (2).
(4) Any person who contravenes subsection (1) is guilty of an offence and upon conviction liable to a fine or imprisonment for a period of three months.

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