Organiser disappears with winter school money

2016-07-01 09:45
Stranded pupils standing outside the property they rented in Alexander Road on Wednesday afternoon.

Stranded pupils standing outside the property they rented in Alexander Road on Wednesday afternoon. (Thabang Mathebula, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - The KZN Department of Education has urged parents to be more vigilant when considering a private winter school programme for their children.

This after over 150 pupils from across KZN who had expected to revise their school curriculum through a private winter school programme in Pietermaritzburg, were left stranded on Wednesday when a man responsible for the programme disappeared with their money.

Pupils paid R800 each upfront, which was meant to cover tutors, food and accommodation.

The man, whose name is known to The Witness, posed as a Durban University “psycho-
social student society programme director”.

He organised the programme without the blessing of the university, targeting schools with Facebook pages where he posted the forms for the winter school.

The red flag was raised by a property owner who agreed to accommodate the pupils during their two-week programme after the programme directer failed to pay accommodation costs on behalf of the pupils.

The man instructed the confused pupils to move their belongings out of the property in Alexandra Road he was supposed to have rented for them, which is used by University of KwaZulu-Natal students during term time.

Several outraged parents who arrived at the venue found the stranded children with their luggage outside the property.

One incensed mother, Nokuthula Nyarko, said she instinctively trusted the programme when it was introduced to her because she saw the DUT logo on the agenda.

“I was convinced that it was a legal programme. My daughter brought home a letter and the application with the DUT logos on it. I was convinced it was organised by the university,” said Nyarko.

It was discovered that the man was known at the university, however, he had not received permission from the university nor the SRC to operate the programme in their name.

He apparently sent out a message about the winter programme throughout most of KZN, introducing it to principals and parents.

In the agenda he presented to parents he made a promise that students were to be taught by retired professors from UKZN.

But DUT SRC member Muzi Ngema denounced all the claims by the man.

“We are not aware of any arrangement with this particular man. We do, however, know about the plans, which were brought to us, but we refused to endorse them because the agenda was not clear,” said Ngema.

He added that the SRC would try to trace the man and discipline him for using the name of the university without authorisation.

KZN Education Department spokesperson Sihle Mlotshwa urged parents to check with the department when taking their children to private winter schools.

“The department has winter schools programmes, which are currently operating, for which pupils are not charged,” Mlotshwa said.

Police spokesperson Mthokozise Ngobese said the police were aware of the incident but no one has come forward to open a case.

“We encourage anyone affected to report it to police so that we can investigate further.”

Approached for comment on Wednesday, the man said The Witness should not write the story. Efforts to call him again yesterday were unsuccessful.

• thabang,mathebula@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  money

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