Bay school unregistered despite opening five years ago

Principal has blamed the education department, saying it was simply tardiness on its part

Higher Ground Christian College in Port Elizabeth is not registered as a school
Higher Ground Christian College in Port Elizabeth is not registered as a school
Image: Eugene Coetzee

The Department of Education is set to intervene at Higher Ground Christian College in Port Elizabeth after it came to light the school has been unregistered for the past five years.

But despite the offer of help, principal Ntsha Ruth Mafani has blamed the department, saying it was simply tardiness on its part that has left the school not being registered.

Mafani submitted her first application in 2015 but two years later the department claimed it had lost her paperwork.

She applied for a second time last year but said the application was still going through the process.

Higher Ground Christian College in Mount Road was founded in 2013. Mafani failed to respond to questions as to why she applied for the first time only after the school had been in operation for two years.

“It must have been in 2017, two years later and in the middle of the registration process that I was informed by the department that some files went missing, including the file in which the school’s registration was,” she said.

“I was then requested by the department to start the process over, which I did and to date the process has not been completed. I have a file that is open for inspection at our premises to this effect.”

Education Department spokesman Malibongwe Mtima said the school was to blame after it failed to provide all the necessary information for the first application. He said this caused the registration process to be delayed.

Last year, Grahamstown High Court Judge Clive Plasket ordered EduPlanet Independent School in Port Elizabeth to shut down within 24 hours after it was discovered the school was not registered.

At the time, Plasket said the SA Schools Act was clear that an independent school must be registered with the provincial education department.

To do so, it must meet certain criteria, including certain educational standards. It is a criminal offence for a school to operate without being registered.

Mtima said the department would assist the school with its new application.

“The application was missing information. It is correct to say should a school not be registered with the department, the qualifications obtained are not recognised.

“However, in this situation, the department will be setting up a meeting with the school as a matter of urgency to check the situation and assist to ensure none of the pupils are affected.”

Mafani also failed to say how many pupils were at the school.

But an anonymous source said it catered for about 300, from Grade 1 to Grade 11. Each pupil pays between R900 and R1 200 a month, depending on the grade.

Mafani’s response to the school being unregistered did little to appease concerned parents.

“My granddaughter is here. This is news to me. If they close the school, where am I supposed to take her? All the schools are full now,” Sithembiso Sinam said.

A parent, who declined to be named, said: “At the time, the registration situation was explained more as a formality and I was led to believe it would be done by the end of the year.”