The start of the first term for hundreds of pupils at Khutlo-Tharo Secondary School in Sebokeng got off to a disastrous start, after they were told to return home because their school had been set alight in the early hours of the morning.
The school's administration block was set ablaze on Wednesday, which would have been the first day of learning for pupils.
Around 07:00, pupils, dressed in their new uniforms, stood helplessly outside the school gates hoping to get answers from their teachers. Some were accompanied by their parents. They were told to go home.
By 08:00, many pupils continued to mill around outside the school, watching as police forensic experts combed the scene, gathering clues as to what could have happened.
According to residents who stay near the school, the fire started just after 02:00. They told News24 that lack of water in the area had led to the fire spreading further. Many offices went up in flames and some parts of the roof were severely burnt, while windows were shattered.
#Khutlo-Tharo pupils at Khutlo-Tharo Secondary School have been told to go back home minutes after arriving for their first day of learning. Their school was burnt in the early hours of the morning @TeamNews24 pic.twitter.com/L4L22Aoaqt— ntwaagae Seleka (@ntwaagae) January 15, 2020
#Khutlo-Tharo Residents of Sebokeng Zone 3 said shortage of water at Khutlo-Tharo Secondary School prevented them from extinguishing the burning administration block at the school @TeamNews24 pic.twitter.com/TWKCGvNQN8— ntwaagae Seleka (@ntwaagae) January 15, 2020
A Grade 12 pupil said the incident had disappointed her.
"Today was supposed to be my first day in Grade 12. Thanks to cruel people, it has been spoiled. I was expecting to be in class and learn.
"But someone robbed me of the opportunity to learn," she said.
The pupil complained that her peers elsewhere were already in their classrooms and being taught.
"Other pupils are already ahead of us, while we wait here outside not knowing if we will be taught this week.
"I am very angry and disappointed by what happened here. Those behind this must be arrested," she said.
Another Grade 12 pupil echoed her sentiments, calling on police to act swiftly and arrest those involved.
"No responsible person can burn a school. Where do they expect us to learn. They are depriving us of our right to education.
"Police must hunt them and arrest them. This is a crime and must be treated as such. Now we are told to go home. There is nothing to do at home. I'm worried about my time that is being wasted," he said.
A Grade 10 pupil said she hoped that their textbooks and stationery had not been burnt.
"I pray that all our learning materials were saved. If not, we are going to wait for more materials to be replaced. Those who did this didn't think about our future.
"I am here to learn, but someone decided to burn our school," she said.
News24 has learnt that there were messages left on the wall, threatening that the next target was the principal's vehicle.
Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi is expected to visit the school later on Wednesday. During the lauch at Noordgesig Primary School in Diepkloof earlier in the day, the MEC said that the department is saddened that as one school is opened, another is burnt.
"We are going to that community. The community must point who did that damage and the police must go and arrest.
"We can’t build schools for criminals to destroy. We are building these schools to liberate these criminals. Because if their children are educated there will be no need for them to do the things that they are doing. "