WATCH: Illegal school in Bloubosrand is closed after fire

A fire is the final nail in the coffin at Boipuso Primary School. The illegal school is no longer operating.

The safety of children at illegal créches and schools has again come to the fore after a small four-classroom premises catering to 87 children in Bloubosrand, caught fire.

No one was hurt during the blaze at Boipuso Primary School on August 29 but it could have easily been a different story.

Douglasdale Community Policing Forum chairperson Lizzy Mabena was among the first responders. “When I arrived, I found toddlers walking in the street without supervision. The teachers as well seemed to have no idea what to do or where to go. They couldn’t tell me if all the children were accounted for,” Mabena said.

“After we put the fire out, I looked around the school and I was shocked at how inhumane the conditions were. So many children had been learning in dirty and cramped spaces. The taps had no running water and the toilets, which the boys and girls shared, had no doors. The place even had a rubbish site on the premises, which was extremely flammable. There were holes in the ceiling before the fire started.”

Boipuso Primary School has not been operating since the fire.

No fire extinguishers were available and no working taps, sand buckets, evacuation plans or even a register to show the headcount were available.

The fire destroyed the illegal school’s kitchen, wendyhouse, dumpsite and it even scorched the boundary wall and damaged the neighbour’s cottage.

Concerned neighbours came to the rescue of the ‘school’ in Rooikrans Road as soon as they noticed the blaze.
In a show of unity, they connected their hosepipes for extra length and ran them over walls to combat the fire. They also brought fire extinguishers and buckets of water, which the venue did not have and used the dirty green water from the school’s pool.

A child looks at the destruction at Boipuso Primary School.

Residents and local security companies also took the children to a park down the road.

The Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) has confirmed the school was operating illegally, that it was issued with a notice of closure and affected learners will be offered placement in public schools.


Mabena and Ward 115 councillor Mark van der Merwe had believed the school was illegally-run for some time, and had reported it to the department months prior.

“The school dodged all our questions whenever we went there,” Van der Merwe said. “The owners could never produce the papers they claimed they had. Unfortunately, many children will be affected by the loss of their school but it could have been much worse. They could have died.”

Boipuso Primary School catered to children from Grade R to Grade 6 and even featured a Department of Basic Education logo on its front wall, along with a registration number. This was found to be connected with a school at a different address.

Mabena and Van der Merwe said parents are often desperate to find cheap schooling near their homes, but they had to be responsible and check the legality and conditions of a créche or school first. They also said there were at least 13 illegal créches and schools operating in Bloubosrand and surrounds.

This journalist visited the school on the morning after the fire but was threatened and chased away by a group of men at the premises after they saw he was taking photos while waiting to speak with the principal.

Joburg EMS firefighters work on the last of the blaze at the school.

The principal, who only introduced himself as Asher and would not provide his surname, agreed to meet the journalist later that day. There, he promised to answer questions relating to the accusations made by Mabena and Van der Merwe on or before September 1. However, no comment has been received yet.

Joburg EMS placed red tape over the gate of the premises, and it has not operated since the fire.

“The fire started in the kitchen, but firefighters do not know the cause at the illegally-run [school],” said EMS media liaison officer Xolile Khumalo.

Department of Education spokesperson Steve Mabona confirmed to Randburg Sun that the school was illegal, was issued with a notice of closure and ‘affected learners were offered placement in public schools and registered independent schools in their respective areas’.

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