School's out for 700 Gugulethu children as protests continue

2017-05-10 19:23
Vukukhanya Primary School. (Zukile Daniel, News24)

Vukukhanya Primary School. (Zukile Daniel, News24)

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WATCH: Gugulethu roads burn as residents protest

2017-05-10 09:25

Residents in Gugulethu, Cape Town, say they were promised a community hall, an old age home, a park and a satellite police station. Protests broke out on Wednesday morning after fed-up residents blamed the DA for non-delivery.WATCH

Cape Town - At least 700 children at Gugulethu's Vukukhanye Primary School have missed classes since Friday because protesters set a fire at their school gates, Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said on Wednesday.

"This dispute is not in any way education-related, yet the community has chosen to use the school and the education of our learners as a bargaining chip," she complained in a statement.

She demanded the reopening of the school and said it was unfair to hold the children's education to ransom in this way.

READ: Burning barricades reignite Gugulethu rezoning row

The department had asked the City of Cape Town and police to try and ensure access to the school.

An appeal was made to community leaders to work with the city to help get the school opened.

Land dispute

However, one of the protest leaders told News24 on Monday that the protest was directly related to education because the long-promised community institutions such as a library had not materialised.

A complex land dispute with its roots in pre-democracy land agreements, the site in Gugulethu's Section 4 was apparently zoned for community institutions, but then rezoned for housing.

UPDATE: Violent protests continue at hotspots across SA

A protest leader, Mandla Naselane, said residents were not opposed to housing, but outraged that the change was made without consulting them and explaining who would live in the houses.

They believe they were victims of election promises being changed without consultation as political support in the province switched from the African National Congress to the Democratic Alliance.

The land in question once provided refuge for people fleeing political violence in nearby KTC during apartheid, he explained.

They eventually left and others moved in, even though that site was initially meant for a community hall and other shared facilities.

The protests in Gugulethu added to growing countrywide protests over a range of issues, including service delivery, housing, and race.

Concern over the effect this was having on children was raised during protests in the Itireleng informal settlement in Pretoria on Wednesday morning. Residents there wanted electricity for their homes.

The headmaster of Pretoria Muslim Trust Sunni School, Nazir Dawood, said he feared for children's safety after protesters started attacking bystanders and invading homes.

"It was threatening. Four of the protesters went into one of the neighbour's houses across the school," he said.

WATCH:

Read more on:    cape town  |  education  |  protests

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