Staff arrested, pupils sent home as two Joburg private schools shut down amid fraud probe

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Principal of Hillcrest International School Petros Lyson.
Principal of Hillcrest International School Petros Lyson.
PHOTO: Supplied/Hawks
  • The Hawks have shut down two schools in Johannesburg.
  • Those who ran the school and several staff members have been arrested.
  • Around 200 students were enrolled at the schools.

The Gauteng Hawks shut down two private schools in Harley Street, Ferndale on Monday before they arrested several staffers and sent pupils home.

Assisted by the SAPS, education department and Home Affairs officials, they swooped in on Hillcrest International School and Academy of Sciences, allegedly for operating without education department registration.

Petros Lyson, 54, the director of Hillcrest, was arrested along with his sons, Rawlings, 30, and Rodney, 25. His sons taught at the primary school, according to the Hawks.

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Staff members, Emmanuel Ngwenya, 24; Evermore Zenda, 30; and Christian Egbonim, 38; Juliet Maphiri, 32; and Faith Mwitha, 22, were also arrested.

Tinonmvonga  Maranguza, 61, who ran the Academy of Sciences – a high school – was arrested with 18-year-old Tadiwanashe Zvichauya.

Gauteng Hawks spokesperson, Captain Lloyd Ramovha, said the schools' 200 paying students were foreign nationals.

Rodney Lyson photographed against wall for mugshot
Rodney Lyson was a teacher at Hillcrest International School , which was owned by his father.
Supplied Hawks

The accused appeared in the Randburg Magistrate's Court on Wednesday on fraud charges.

"They are also charged for [their] failure to register the institutions, which is a contravention of the South African Schools Act. Charges of contravention of the Immigration Act are also being explored, pending verification of the status of the arrested persons in the country," Ramovha added.

They are Nigerian and Zimbabwean nationals.

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The accused are in custody and are expected to appear in court again on Monday and Thursday.

Lyson has also been charged in connection with an incident at OR Tambo International Airport on 1 August 2022.

"He is accused of facilitating fraudulent paperwork to traffic four minors, aged between 11 and 15, [for travel] to Dublin, Ireland," Ramovha said.

Rawlings Lyson photographed against wall for police mugshot
Rawlings Lyson was a teacher at Hillcrest International School, which was owned by his father.
Supplied Hawks

"In the said case, the minors were rescued, and three arrests were made. That case is already on the court roll with the remand scheduled date of 13 April 2023, with Lyson expected to join his co-accused at the [Kempton Park Magistrate's Court]."

Gauteng Hawks head, Major General Ebrahim Kadwa, said fraudulent colleges "appear to be widespread in the country" and students have been urged to check colleges' credentials with the Department of Education.

"We cannot sit and watch whilst the future of our youth is being exploited by unscrupulous criminals. The Hawks will present a watertight case to ensure that similar elements refrain from these appalling acts of dishonesty at the detriment of our education system," Kadwa said.

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