Almost 3 000 pupils in Zebediela, Limpopo, have not been attending school for the past four months as community members demand a tarred road in the area.
Pre-schools, crèches and some businesses have also shut down and leaders are adamant that the situation will continue until Premier Stan Mathabatha visits the area.
A classroom that was used as a library at Mmamati primary school was set alight by unknown people last week.
A visit by News24 established that nine schools, several pre-schools and crèches were empty. Pupils stood on street corners in groups and some were engaged in a game of dice. Matric pupils have missed their mid-year exams.
Community leader John Kgole said the community had decided that the situation should be maintained until their demand for the tarring of the main access road had been met.
"We addressed our demand to the local municipality (Lepelle-Nkumpi) and they never took us seriously. We contacted RAL (Road Agency Limpopo) and the officials came here but they never came back to us.
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"We then sent a petition to the office of the premier but nothing happened. We then realised that the government doesn't want to listen to us. As a community, we decided to shut down all the schools.
"We than marched to the office of the premier [before the elections] and delivered a memorandum. We were promised that the premier will visit the area within seven days but he failed to do so. The shutdown will continue until he visits the area," Kgole said.
the premier's spokesperson, Kenny Mathivha, acknowledged that the situation was "serious and deserves attention".
"However, we cannot hold the children to ransom just because of the demand for the tarred road. The premier is looking at his diary and will visit the area soon."
He said Limpopo needed R90bn to meet the challenges of tarring all the roads in the province: "The challenge is where do we get all that money. We should give the new MEC a chance to deal with the matter."
Itumeleng Mako, one of the hundreds of matric pupils who missed mid-year exams, said he was disappointed about the situation.
"I had dreams that I'll pass my matric and get a bursary to further my studies. However, it now seems like a pipe dream because as the situation stands, we are destined to repeat the class next year," he said.
Provincial education spokesperson Sam Makondo said authorities had tried to engage with community leaders but to no avail.
He said the department was drafting plans for catch-up programmes for pupils in the area.
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