School’s closure REJECTED

WHILE the country’s schools began their academic year on Wednesday, this was not the case for Umvuzo Secondary School.

“Make us pass or we will burn this school” was the message written on one of the office walls at Umvuzo Secondary School in France before the main administration block, including the principal’s office, was set alight on Saturday night.

The school’s plan to delay opening for the 2019 academic year, due to the incident, was rejected on Wednesday by KZN Education MEC Mthandeni Dlungwane when he visited the school.

Dlungwane saw that there were no children at the school and only half the staff compliment of teachers was present. He has ordered that the principal, Sandile Madlala, submit a report to the department by Friday stating his reasons for not opening the school.

“The closing of the school is illegal because as the department we knew nothing about it. This is not acceptable because as the schools are opening we expect the work to start in the first hour of the first day. We have listened to the issues that the school is facing and we are going to work on them and make sure that the proceedings of classes are not affected,” said Dlungwane.

According to reliable sources known to Echo, those responsible for setting the school alight gained access to the school by jumping a fence and then entering through a window. Sources claim that petrol was use to ignite the fire.

Umvuzo Secondary is a new school that was rebuilt by the Department of Education after the previous building was demolished. It was officially opened in 2017.

When Echo visited the school on Monday, pupils, with their parents, were seen registering for the 2019 academic year. The school hall was used to register the pupils to ensure the process ran smoothly despite the incident.

The School Governing Body (SGB) chairperson, Dumisani Shandu, told Echo that prior to the fire, there was a message written on one of the office walls threatening teachers to “make pupils pass”.

“On December 17, there was a break-in at the school. When we went to check we saw the message and some other vulgar messages written next to it. We never thought that it would really happen. This is so sad because the school was built for our children to get educated and have a chance of a bright future but now it is destroyed. This school cost millions to build.

“We believe that not only children are involved in this. There may be individuals who are not pleased with certain things; things that we are unaware of. We urge them to come forward so that we can address these issues.

“Burning the school is not going to solve anything and is not doing any good for our children and our community as well,” he said.

Shandu said this is not the first time the school had been subjected to criminal activities.

CONTINUED ON PAGE 3 “Since 2017, the school has been broken into 16 times before it was set alight. We have reported all these incidents to the police but nobody has been arrested.

“We are hoping to work closely with the Department of Education in making sure that we avoid something like this from happening in the future. We will also have a community meeting on January 13 where we will be engaging the community regarding the problems that the school is facing,” he said.

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