Teacher unions in KwaZulu-Natal have expressed shock and dismay at the arrest of a 13-year-old primary school pupil who was armed with a 9mm pistol inside school premises on Monday.
The pupil, from Mvutshini Primary School in Gingindlovu, Greytown, was arrested after he was caught carrying the weapon.
National Teachers Union spokesman Musa Gumede said the incident showed that the department of education had failed to provide schools with well-trained security guards.
"Our moral fibre is at a very low ebb and the culture and the environment in which these children go to school is so hostile that they have to be armed to the teeth. What is even more worrying is that the firearm would in the end be used to steal from the softest target - the educator," said Gumede.
He said teachers were now arming themselves because they felt vulnerable.
"More and more of such incidents are going to take place, especially during exams. Learners will come armed and demand to pass. What will teachers do then?" he asked.
Sipho Nkosi, of the South African Democratic Teachers Union, said it was worrying that such a young pupil had come to school armed.
"The department of education needs to speed up the process of employing security guards who can search each and every pupil," said Nkosi.
Police spokesman Superintendent Jay Naicker said police were called by teachers after they saw children playing with a firearm on the school premises during their break.
"Children were playing with a firearm on the school premises and teachers were shocked to discover that one of the pupils was in possession of a real firearm.
"When police arrived, they found that the firearm had two rounds of ammunition.
"The child (who had brought the gun) told us the firearm belonged to his dead father," Naicker said.
He said if it was found there was any negligence on the part of parents, they would be arrested.
"We are still investigating how the child was able to take possession of the firearm and why the firearm was not handed over to the police after the father's death.
"It is very fortunate that none of the children who were playing with the firearm were injured prior to its discovery," he said.
The pupil was expected to appear in court soon.
The provincial education department expressed shock that a pupil so young was carrying a weapon in the school.
Spokesman Ntokozo Maphisa said: "We have deployed our district officials to the school and once a final report has been received, we will release a full statement."