F State gang violence halts schooling

2012-08-21 17:07
School children. (File, Sapa)

School children. (File, Sapa)

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Bloemfontein - Acts of violence and intimidation between a youth gang and Botshabelo residents closed all 59 schools in the area, a government official said on Tuesday.

Free State education spokesperson Howard Ndaba condemned the violence.

"Yesterday [Monday] schooling in all 59 schools in Botshabelo came to a halt as a result of alleged intimidation by a group of young people calling themselves, 'Born to Kill' (BTK)."

Ndaba said most parents fetched their children from school on Monday morning. Two people were arrested for public violence after a crowd attacked two teenagers accused of being part of a gang on Monday.

Residents in the area accused the youths, aged 17 and 19, of being members of BTK, which had terrorised pupils in a school in N Section.

Police spokesperson Captain Tseko Mokgahle said the teenagers were attacked with knobkerries as they were walking down a street.

Mokgahle said residents were tired of the gang terrorising their children while at school.

"[The] community went all out searching for the group members."

Two shacks, thought to be home to some members of the gang, were set alight, and another shack was damaged.

Police said the youths assaulted were taken to the Botshabelo Hospital where they were in a critical condition. They would not be arrested as police did not suspect them of committing an offence.

Knives, pangas

Police said 10 suspected gang members, aged between 16 and 21, were arrested for public violence on Friday when they went to a school in the area with knives and pangas and intimidated pupils.

Mokgahle said the group appeared in the Botshabelo Magistrate's Court on Monday. Three of them were released into the custody of their parents.

Ndaba said there was no crisis at schools in Botshabelo, despite parents fetching their children.

"They [pupils] were actually safer within the school premises than outside. We call on parents not to panic as we are working with police to ensure the safety of the entire school community in the area."

No pupil or teacher had been hurt at the school. Ndaba said the department and police were meeting parents from each section within Botshabelo to seek a lasting solution.

Some children turned up at schools on Tuesday, he said.

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