Classrooms at a KwaZulu-Natal school have been torched during the national lockdown, adding further pressure to a Covid-19 burdened government, Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu said on Thursday.
"We are facing an unfortunate situation where we are dealing with a pandemic that is threatening the lives of our people. Now, we have to also deal with vandalism at our schools," he said after a press briefing in Umlazi.
Mshengu reported that one classroom had been completely destroyed at Bambazi High School in Emmaus, Bergville, on Wednesday and that others had been "slightly affected".
"Currently we don't know what started the fire, but there are allegations that certain people were seen around the school towards the evening and, immediately after that, the community started to notice the fire."
He said they were certain that criminal elements were involved.
"We are working with police to find out what happened and who the culprits responsible are. One thing that is for sure is that somebody set the school alight. They can't suspect any other thing. Schools have been closed since before lockdown was announced and we have not had really any other challenges.
"We are indeed suspecting criminality and will be working with police to confirm what happened. We call on our communities to protect our schools during this period."
He called on the community to contact law enforcement agencies "to protect schools".
"We need to put more resources into the school, so the learners don't suffer because their classrooms are burnt. We are advised that a few classes burnt. We have to find a way of replacing them so, when learners resume classes, there is nobody that is affected."
Police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said Bergville SAPS were investigating a case of arson.
"It is alleged that, on 8 April 2020 [around] 17:30, a classroom with schoolbooks inside caught fire at Emmaus. The circumstances surrounding the incident are being investigated."