A 17-year-old youth's passion for education made him a target when pupils rioted at Wedela in Carletonville yesterday and police had to escort him to safety from a school on the West Rand.
Sibusiso Nkala, originally from the troubled Khutsong township, reported to Wedela Technical High School in the morning but pupils there did not want him in their midst.
They felt he should be at home like all the other pupils in Khutsong. There has been no schooling in Khutsong for the past seven weeks after the township erupted when the community rioted over the incorporation of the area into North West from Gauteng.
Nkala, a Grade 11 pupil, was among a few children who were opposed to not attending school and who wanted to continue with classes despite the strife in Khutsong.
Nkala's parents approached the North West department of education on his behalf.
Wedela Technical, which falls under North West, confirmed it had received a letter from provincial education MEC Oabetswe Tselapedi instructing the principal to admit Nkala with immediate effect, or face dismissal.
Education spokesman Charles Raseala denied this, saying: "The fact that the MEC intimidated the principal is news to me."
He said Nkala and his parents had approached the education department as they feared his life was under threat in Khutsong.
"We realised there was a level of intimidation. We wanted to help him from a security point of view," Raseala said.
Yesterday, after Nkala was escorted from the school premises by police, pupils were told to disperse but instead they went on a rampage, looting from local shops and street vendors.
Representatives of the school, the department and the SACP met to discuss the matter.
The SACP's Elvis Mphithikezi said: "We've discussed the matter and decided that to restore order the pupil must be removed from the school."
Seipati Thekiso, a Grade 10 pupil at Wedela Technical High School, said: "We do not want him here.
"If the other children are not going to school in Khutsong, why must he go to school? What makes him special?"
Gogo Nonjoli, a teacher at the school, supported Seipati and said: "Why does he have to be admitted to the school when other children are chased away?"