The unregistered Ziggy Primary School in Mpheni village has been closed after operating for more than five years. Photo: Thembi Siaga.

Department shuts down Ziggy School


An unregistered school that has been operating since 2019 was closed by the Limpopo Department of Education last week. Parents had to scramble to find a new educational home for their children, with many feeling that the department had failed to protect the children by not acting against the owners of the school sooner.

The education department’s acting spokesperson, Ms Mosebjane Kgaffe, confirmed that they had officially closed Ziggy Independent School on Tuesday, 9 April. The school was operating in Mpheni village in Vhembe and catered for Grade R to Grade 5 learners.

“After investigations conducted by the department, we can confirm that Ziggy Independent School has been officially closed, and 94 learners from grades R to 5 have been placed in public schools. Learners will be subjected to baseline assessments with special emphasis on English FAL (First Additional Language) and maths to ensure appropriate placement,” Kgaffe said.

Some of the parents have moved their children to private schools in the region. They fear that their children will be held back a year or two because public schools will first have to conduct assessments before deciding on appropriate grade placement for the children. The parents are concerned that the quality of education at Ziggy Primary was well below standard, with many children not being able to read or do maths properly.

Parents such as Mr Fushanani Munyai are left with many questions. He only became aware of the situation when Limpopo Mirror reported in March this year that the school was operating illegally. When they inquired about the school’s status in the past, they were told half-truths and assured that the registration was “in the process.”

For parents such as Mr Munyai, Ziggy Primary School provided an ideal alternative to public schools. The school was close to them and offered smaller classes, which they believed would help their children receive quality education. They also relied on a legal system with proper oversight, that should ensure that people and institutions that transgress laws would be held accountable.

Another parent, who asked to remain anonymous, reckoned that the education department’s officials had known about the school for some years but had never bothered to act. Ziggy Primary School even won a national competition in June 2022, run by a national hardware franchise. The children also wrote exams that the parents were told were being moderated by the department. “It is as if you can do what you like and there are no consequences,” she said.

Ms Kgaffe explained that once an unregistered school was discovered, the department had a legal mandate to close the school. "The owner of an unregistered school will be given a warning, and repeating such an act will lead to a future disapproval of intention to register a school or the owner being blacklisted," she said.

Ms Kgaffe did not respond to other questions, such as when the department had become aware of Ziggy Primary School's activities or the alleged failure of the school to employ properly registered teachers.

To teach children in a primary school, educators typically need to meet certain qualifications and requirements set by the Department of Basic Education. These qualifications include a recognised teaching qualification and registration with the South African Council for Educators (SACE). This was confirmed by the communication manager for SACE, Mr Risuna Nkuna. “It is the employer's responsibility to hire qualified teachers who are registered with [the] SACE. Parents can verify whether teachers have registered with SACE by asking the school’s SGB if they suspect that the teachers might not have adequate qualifications to teach their children,” Nkuna said.

Only after Limpopo Mirror reported on 23 March that the school was operating illegally did the department start to act. The article revealed that the Mpheni school was run by a private company, Ziggy Children’s Centre, which was registered in February 2018. The directors are Ms Elizabeth Makondo from Vuwani, along with Mr Herbert Zigara and his wife, Rugare Zigara, from Zimbabwe. The school started catering to Grade Rs in 2019 and added other grades each year until reaching Grade 6. Parents were allegedly told that Grade 7 would be added next year.

Several efforts to obtain comments from the school owners drew a blank. Initially, Ms Zigara refused to respond to questions and referred all queries to an attorney, Mr Thabelo Nengwekhulu. The attorney was evasive and did not respond to questions. After the first article appeared, Mr Nengwekhulu was apparently replaced by another attorney, who said he acted as spokesperson for the school. He did not respond to questions either.

Ms Zigara was contacted again on Thursday, 11 April, for comment. She accused the newspaper of printing an article without giving her a right of reply. When we pointed out that she had referred all questions to attorneys, she claimed to have felt threatened. “You can call the school principal, Noah, to give you our side of the story,” she said. Several calls were made to Noah, but none were answered.

Later that evening, a WhatsApp message was received from a Mr Sithagu, who claimed to be the secretary of the school governing body (SGB) at Ziggy Primary School. In a bizarre twist, he claimed that Ms Zigara had been threatened by the reporter. “She said that you told her to remain at her house and never go out. What made you tell her that? 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 regarding any school matter,” he said.


News - Date: 19 April 2024

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Thembi Siaga

Thembi Siaga started as an intern during 2021. He assisted with video photography and editing. He also produced numerous small documentaries, focusing on the Vhembe region and its people. Currently he works as a freelance journalist, covering stories in the Elim area.

Thembi studied at the Tshwane University of Technology, where he completed his diploma in Journalism in 2021.