Johannesburg – Two black teachers reported for work at the troubled Roodepoort Primary School on Wednesday, but 15 of their colleagues did not arrive, citing safety fears.
All seemed calm outside the school on the first day of the new term, with parents and their children flocking to the school that made headlines last year when parents demanded the removal of the principal.
On Tuesday, Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi announced that 15 black teachers had indicated that they would not return to their posts at the school as they did not feel comfortable returning.
"At Roodepoort Primary, 15 teachers have announced they're not comfortable going back to the school, but we're engaging via unions," he said via the Department of Education Twitter page.
One of the parents confirmed on Wednesday morning that the 15 teachers had indeed stayed away, but also added that she did not understand why they felt threatened.
"I really don’t understand why they feel threatened, because nobody has any problems with them," the woman, who preferred to remain anonymous, told News24.
"There are two other black teachers who were at the school and they aren’t experiencing any problems."
By late morning, a few black parents stood outside the school after registering their children. According to them everything went smoothly and they were happy with proceedings.
One of the parents said there would be a meeting later this week to discuss the new principal who would be appointed at the school.
Stand-in teachers had been appointed to cover for those who were absent.
As the bell rang for the first recess, children happily ran out onto the playground, with no sign of tensions from last year when the police had to fire rubber bullets at protesters outside the school.
Parents expressed their unhappiness with the principal and two deputy principals of the school, claiming corruption, but an investigation by the education department found no evidence of this.
After the school was closed in August 2015, the pupils were temporarily placed at other schools, upsetting parents who did not want to move their children to another school so late in the year.
On the day the school was closed, police tried to escort district officials off the premises, but parents blocked the way, saying they would not let them leave until the school was reopened.
Parents of coloured pupils denied their problems with the black prinicipal were race related, insisting the protests were against corruption at the school.