#Shutdown: Protests keep pupils out of school

The effect the shutdown protests are having on schools is worrying education authorities who are particularly concerned about this year's matric candidates and their vital preparation for the National Senior Certificate (NSC) exams.

Western Cape police spokesperson Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana said there were ongoing protests in Lwandle in Strand on Friday when several businesses were looted overnight.

Thirty-one people have been arrested so far in Cape Town.

Protesting continued in the Strand, as well as Blackheath and Eerste River on Friday.

In Gauteng, protesting continued in Tshwane and the Vaal.

Fiery pickets and stand-offs between police and demonstrators also flared up in Rust-ter-Vaal near Vereeniging, on Friday.

National Department of Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said they were still collating feedback from schools but that they were told that schooling in some parts of the Free State had been disrupted. 

'The impact is dire'

Western Cape education MEC Debbie Schäfer was also worried about the effect of the protests on schools.

"While we condemn any disruption to schooling at any time during the school year, the disruption of schooling at this critical time of the year is even more concerning, as a number of assessments and exams are currently being written," she said,

"I appeal to influential community leaders to assist us in ensuring that teaching and learning, and especially the upcoming NSC examinations, are not disrupted," she said.

At least 21 schools in the Lwandle, Nomzamo and Khayelitsha areas of Cape Town were closed, and eight schools in Happy Valley were either monitored for closure or "disrupted significantly".

A teacher in Khayelitsha told News24 on Thursday that pupils had been sent home with letters for their parents that explained that the school had closed as a precaution.

Schools that stayed open, reported low attendance.

READ: Somerset West: Shops looted, bar emptied overnight

Gauteng education department spokesperson Steve Mabona said wherever there was a "shutdown" protest, schooling stopped.

"The impact is dire," said Mabona.

"Indeed we are actually concerned about disruptions that are currently affecting schooling. It is worrisome that we are at the beginning of Term 2, and disruptions experienced are beyond our comprehension.

"Though we will implement catch-up plans, there is no justification for such persistent unnecessary disruptions," he added.

Politics, opportunism

The City of Cape Town noted that there have been 21 protests so far in April, compared to 76 at the end of March and 24 in February.

Safety MEC Alan Winde said at least 25 000 pupils were affected by the protests. The Nomzamo Community Day Centre in Strand was still closed on Friday as staff are unable to get to work, while Khayelitsha Hospital was functioning on skeleton staff.

Winde is of the view that the protests are politically motivated. 

The ANC in the Western Cape said: "Anger over these policies of neglect has been growing in many communities. Now it is being taken to the streets in some areas."

The party called for calm and urged communities not to allow themselves to be exploited by political opportunists. 

On Thursday, the DA blamed the ANC for the protests ahead of the May 8 national and provincial government elections.

 On Friday, Metrorail's Twitter feed was providing regular updates.

Golden Arrow Bus Services announced that all its services were up and running again and no delays were reported.

MyCiTi tweeted that out of concern for the safety of passengers and staff, two Khayelitsha routes would be suspended until further notice.

Western Cape Traffic spokesperson Kenny Africa said on Friday morning that main routes such as the N2, via Somerset West and Strand, had been reopened.

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