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A storeroom at Bopasenatla Secondary School in Diepkloof, Soweto, caught fire on Tuesday afternoon and old curriculum books were burnt.
It is unclear what caused the blaze, which was contained in the small room. Some of the books were still in their wrappers and others were used.
The Gauteng education department says the books were from the old curriculum and were going to be shredded. Spokesman Charles Phahlane said: "These books are old and we changed to the new curriculum in 1998. So they are over 10 years old.
"It has been brought to our attention that some schools have obsolete stock of textbooks and we are currently developing a policy to guide schools on how to dispose of these books.
"We have not disposed of any books in a number of years."
He said that before books could be destroyed, schools needed to get permission from the district office.
But the Democratic Alliance education spokesman Khume Ramulifho said: "Schools are not storage facilities and why are the books still in packaging? That means they were never given to children in the first place. Not all books should be shredded, some have to be placed in the library and used as references."
School governing body chairman Laukazi Nkabinde says the school does not even have a library.
"The principal has been telling us that we need to buy new books, but why are there books locked in the storeroom?
"Why don't we use the old ones? The school is supposed to have a library to store all the books but it is not so," Nkabinde said.
The National Association of School Governing Bodies Regional Deputy Secretary Nhlanhla Njoko also laments that there is no library at the school.
"The school does not have a library. How do you explain that. These books should have been in the library because some are still usable. At this stage we don't know what started the fire, this is subject to investigation," he said. - firstname.lastname@example.org