The Congress of SA Students (Cosas) in KwaZulu-Natal yesterday abandoned its plans to boycott classes.
It has instead given the department of education a seven-day ultimatum to speed up the employment and deployment of security guards at high- risk schools.
Cosas had earlier threatened to stay away from classes yesterday, when schools reopened after the winter recess, if the safety of pupils and teachers were not guaranteed at "high- risk" schools.
Yesterday Cosas said it had in the interest of learning decided to put its plans on hold for a week. The department last week advertised vacancies for 3000 security guards.
But pupils, supported by the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), accuse the department of "dragging its feet" about safety at schools.
They say budget allocations for security was made available as early as April.
Sadtu said it would support the students in any decision they take to make the department speed up the deployment of guards at schools.
Cosas provincial spokesman S'bonelo Shezi yesterday said they had also approached police stations near high-risk schools to patrol in their vicinity three times a day.
"We have taken it on ourselves to have the police patrol these schools because we take the safety of pupils and that of teachers seriously," Shezi said.
Public schools throughout the province opened for the third term yesterday.
Learning began as soon as the first bell rang, and no disturbances were reported.
But schools in Umlazi started on a bitter note when a woman teacher, Mpho Shibe, was shot dead during morning assembly at Isidingo Primary School.
The school is planning a memorial service for Shibe on Thursday.
"We are going to engage very seriously with the department about the issue of security guards," Sadtu provincial deputy secretary Mjozi Motha said. "The department should make it their number one priority."
Education spokesman Mbali Thusi said everything was going well, with teachers and pupils getting to school on time and being ready to begin learning and teaching.
Thusi said they were not aware of the Cosas boycott threat nor were they officially informed of the seven-day ultimatum.
"We will continue with the process of employing security guards as is required by law but cannot say how long the process will take," Thusi said.