Troubled Roodepoort school gets 'one last chance'

2015-08-10 18:45
Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi. Picture: Simone Kley

Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi. Picture: Simone Kley

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Johannesburg - The troubled Roodepoort Primary School will be closed permanently if learning is disrupted one more time, said Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi on Monday.

"I am giving them their last chance. It is with a heavy heart, [that I say] that any form of disruption that takes place as from tomorrow [Tuesday], [will leave me with no] option but to permanently close the school," he told reporters in Johannesburg.

"We will spread the learners to all the surrounding schools, as well as the teachers."

Lesufi's warning followed two incidents at the school last week.

"My fear is that I am exposing these young ones to a serious risk of violence, of guns, of petrol bombs... So I have to protect the interests of these children.

"I am at the stage where I am appealing to all relevant parties to please allow these young ones to go to school."

Armed person enters school

He said a petrol bomb was thrown at the deputy principal's car last week, but a security company Lesufi hired for the school managed to douse the flames.

"Two days later, a person claiming to be a parent entered the school premises armed, looking for the school principal," Lesufi said.
"The security firm managed to search the person and they retrieved the firearm, and that person was not allowed to proceed.

"This person was accompanied by another female companion who, on the basis of the information that we have, was going to get another firearm through the fence at the school premises."

He said the two were handed over to the police.

"The police are continuing with the investigation."

Police confirmed the arrests to News24 on August 4.

They could not immediately provide an update on Monday.

Pupils’ attendance drops

Lesufi said that because of these incidents, black teachers stopped coming to the school because they "feared for their lives".

The attendance of pupils had also dropped.

"All those teachers must go back to school tomorrow, and the community must refrain from interfering unnecessarily in the activities of the school," he said.

"People have mobilised even the young ones. When children see the principal, and they are outside the classroom and she is trying to request them to go back to the classroom, they shout 'pay back the money'."

Last month Lesufi said residents tried to disrupt teaching at the school as it reopened for the new term, after which he employed the armed security company.

"I took an unfortunate step, something that is against my belief [and] I deployed an armed security firm [for the school]. I don't want to expose our children to guns, but I had to take that decision... because of the situation in that area," he said on Monday.

Site of several protests

Lesufi said in June that he was closing down the school, but would reopen it in the new term and would "have a plan in place".

That was the second time he had taken drastic action against the school.

In April, he also decided to close it down, but reopened it several days later.

The school was the site of several protests, and in one case police had to fire rubber bullets.

The parents of the pupils allegedly demanded a coloured principal. They claimed the process of appointing black principal Nomathemba Molefe was flawed.

Later they alleged that there was maladministration by the principal and the governing body chair.

A report by KPMG had reportedly cleared the principal and her deputies of wrongdoing.

Lesufi said at the time that one of the reasons he initially closed the school was because residents had wanted to burn it down.

In June, Lesufi confirmed that the community had carried out their threat and had petrol bombed the principal's office.

Read more on:    panyaza lesufi  |  johannesburg  |  education

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