Mchunu threatens to close school

2013-05-06 00:00

THE MEC for Education, Senzo Mchunu, warned that Umlulama Secondary in Hopewell could be closed if the “war zone” at the school continued.

Mchunu addressed a packed marquee of community members, MPLs, a local chief, police, parents and pupils at the school on Friday.

The meeting comes after two pupils were attacked with pangas and knives by school-mates in a suspected gang attack at the school last month.

Teachers became too scared to go back to class the next day after witnessing the gruesome attacks.

Umlulama’s image has been tarnished by violence and gang fighting for several years, which Mchunu condemned.

“There is no way that we can still have this school under the Education Department if it continues this way.

“I can assure you that that’s not going to happen,” he declared.

Several cases that have been recorded at Umlulama:

• 2007: Sbongiseni Phakathi, a Grade 8 pupil, had an argument with a class-mate over a pen and was stabbed during break time and died.

• 2008: A security guard discovered the corpse of a former pupil, Andile Shabane, on the school grounds. He had been hacked to death and his body dumped at the school. Shabane had been charged with the murder of Phakathi and it was alleged that the killing was a revenge attack.

• 2010: On the day Shabane’s killers were sentenced, his relative, Mthokozisi, was stabbed and killed.

• 2011: Umlulama dropout Andile Cele was found dead with stab wounds one weekend.

• September 2012: An outsider walked into the school looking for two pupils to stab. Upon hearing the news, one of the pupils on the hit list ran to a nearby house to get a knife and then stabbed the outsider.

• October 2012: Grade 8 pupil Nkosingiphile Ngcamu was dragged outside the school during break and stabbed. He died on his way to hospital.

• January 2013: A teacher was threatened by heavily armed men travelling in a van who wanted to attack her.

• January 2013: A Grade 11 pupil stabbed a female pupil with a bottle folowing an argument.

• March 2013: Police were called to the school after two gangs were planning to fight after school.

Police have arrested pupils as young as 14 for cases of assault and murder.

Mchunu painted a picture of a school in a dismal state, with a poor matric pass rate (under 60%), many girls falling pregnant and pupils hooked on drugs.

Apparently, the teachers no longer stay for extra classes out of fear.

“The school is dying,” Mchunu said.

He blamed his department for failing to intervene earlier.

He asked the audience what their vision was for the school.

Grade 9 pupil Ntombenhle Shabangu said she was saddened by the events at the school.

“I know many pupils who no longer come to school because they’re scared they’ll be stabbed,” she said.

Another pupil, Sibusiso Mtolo, said: “We leave our safe homes and our parents in the morning to go to school, but we’re scared that we may not come back alive.”

Pupils said they hoped to see the school’s security beefed up.

Some parents said they thought that extra-curricular and sport activities, which the school lacks, would curb violence and drug abuse; others thought corporal punishment was the solution.

A local chief, Thamsanqa Mkhize, said the school was named after his great-grandfather.

He asked the community if they wanted the school to be shut down. His question was met with a deafening “no”.

He said that before the school was built, many pupils had travelled as far as Pietemaritzburg for schooling.

“Please take care of this school … don’t make Hopewell unruly,” he pleaded.


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