THE National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa has accused community leaders of intimidating teachers and preventing them from reporting for duty.
Naptosa president Ezra Ramasehla, who visited the Northern Cape's Johan Taolo Gaetswe district municipality at the weekend, said teachers were willing to go back to school.
Three schools have been torched in the district. The school crisis has affected 16000 pupils and 600 teachers in 65 schools.
"Most of the teachers said that they wanted to return to their schools, but there is serious intimidation from community leaders," Ramasehla said.
"This is not an education problem but a political one. It is sad that the [Basic Education] minister [Angie Motshekga] has been sitting in Pretoria for three months and not visiting the area. It is a state of emergency and she should make it a priority."
Basic Education Department spokesman Panyaza Lesufi refuted Ramasehla's claims.
He said: "That is not true. We have been working on this issue since June. They [Naptosa] also went there for the first time this weekend. We can accuse them of the same thing. This was originally not education related but people wanting a road.
"The minister will be there on Wednesday [tomorrow] and Thursday."
Motshekga has also instituted a task team and sent pupils to a study camp.
Naptosa Northern Cape chairman McAnthony Digopo said: "We are happy that the department has been having talks with all stakeholders."
Digopo said the union had told teachers not to compromise their safety.
"In high-risk areas such as Ditshiping Intermediate School, H Seane Primary School and Cassel village we told our teachers not to endanger their lives."
On June 6, three taxis with people wielding knobkerries allegedly attacked teachers and pupils.
Provincial education spokesman Sydney Stander said parents understood that children needed to be back in schools.
"When [Police Minister] Nathi Mthethwa was here, he made parents understand that they have made commitments to their children," Stander said.
"Parents are an important stakeholder, but if they do not come around we will have to look into the law and its interpretations."- firstname.lastname@example.org