Fear still keeping Vuwani schools closed

2016-05-30 18:35
School that was set alight during protests in Vuwani, Limpopo. (News24 Correspondent)

School that was set alight during protests in Vuwani, Limpopo. (News24 Correspondent)

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Cape Town - Children in Vuwani are still losing out on school lessons, as the situation has still not settled completely following massive demarcation protests.

"It's a difficult situation for education authorities because, until such time as the environment stabilises, we are not able to implement our recovery plan," said education department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga.

"Intimidation is still an issue that concerns us a lot," he added.

The stop-start efforts to bring teaching back on stream since the protests are rooted in a court judgment on April 29. This saw the Masia Traditional Council lose an application to set aside the Demarcation Board's decision to merge underperforming Vuwani municipality with parts of the Malamulele municipality in the Vhembe district.

Anger and frustration very quickly escalated and around 24 schools were torched, but there was so much vandalism and intimidation that 103 schools in the Vhembe region are not operating.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said at the time that she had never seen anything like it as furniture, equipment and books were reduced to ashes. She said the attacks on the properties were swift and even had residents, who had tried to guard the schools, running for their lives. Motshekga has estimated that the final bill for replacements and repairs could be as high as R750m.

Human rights lobby group Section 27 said the tragedy had been brewing since at least 2011, and revolved around residents wanting to be part of a municipality that would bring them services to improve their lives.

The Limpopo government has declared the area a disaster zone so that funding can urgently be released to start rebuilding and repairing.

In a briefing last week at Parliament, the education department said it had ordered mobile classrooms and other basics for getting schools back on track again, such as printers, computers and replacement text books. It had also budgeted for armed and unarmed security guards.

But Limpopo education department spokesperson Naledzani Rasila said they could not do much to get teaching going again until things had calmed down completely.

Some children were going to the schools, but teachers were reporting at district offices, saying they were too scared to be in class.

In the meantime, an interministerial task team was trying to get to the bottom of the problem so that normality would return. 

Read more on:    polokwane  |  service delivery

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