School turns to prayer, protest action

2019-09-10 06:00
The open field in front of the school is said to turn into a war zone once shootings starts in Factreton.PHOTO: Nomzamo Yuku

The open field in front of the school is said to turn into a war zone once shootings starts in Factreton.PHOTO: Nomzamo Yuku

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While teaching should be the primary focus at schools, the staff at WD Hendricks Primary School in Factreton constantly have to deal with issues such as gang violence, missing children and other associated problems.

In an attempt to highlight their plight, the school decided to picket against gang violence every Wednesday. But merely a week after they started with the protest action, they had to shift focus when one of their learners went missing.

Fortunately for the school and her family, Chante Arendse (11) was found alive and well. She went missing on Saturday 31 August after she was “gone for too long”, according to her 80-year-old grandfather, Roger Arendse.

“I knew something was wrong. She never goes anywhere, she mostly stays indoors.”

The school assisted in the search. It was later discovered Chante went to a friend who lives in Nyanga. She was safely returned home on Thursday 5 September.

A few hours before the planned picket on Wednesday 4 September, the school received a tip-off from a person, alledging rival gangs were planning a shoot out at a specific location in the area. The person advised the school to “keep the children safe”.

“That corner (where the shooting was due to take place) is a hotspot. They shoot at any time so we can never take these tip-offs lightly. Safety comes first,” said Rochelle Strydom, the school secretary.

She said they had been disappointed by the news of a possible shooting since the area had been quiet for almost a week since the first picket and prayer at the school.

Principal Luzell Cooper said the school was situated in an area where gang violence was rife. This had a negative impact on learners and staff, who were left traumatised after every shooting.

“We’ll host prayers and picket until the situation improves. The children are not taking it well and we can’t sit and wait for authorities to act. It has been years already and it is getting worse. We do not want to wait for the worst to happen before we say, ‘Enough is enough,’.”

They hope to get support from churches and community leaders. They plan to start the day with prayer, followed by some picketing before classes start.

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