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THREE classrooms have been burnt to ashes at Lesedi Primary School in Shatale township near Bushbuckridge in Mpumalanga.
Teachers and pupils were shocked yesterday when they arrived at the school to find that classrooms for grades 1, 2 and 3 had been burnt down early in the morning yesterday.
Firefighters only managed to extinguish the fire after two hours.
By then the classes had already been destroyed.
Books and cabinets had also been reduced to rubble, and the damage was estimated at hundreds of thousands of rands.
Jasper Zwane, the spokesperson for Mpumalanga department of education, said the department had opened a case of arson after preliminary investigations showed that other classrooms and offices had also been broken into.
"We are also investigating what had led to the fire. Classrooms with 44 tables, 10 chairs and a number of steel cabinets were burnt down.
"The estimated damage is R400000," Zwane said .
When Sowetan arrived at the school, teachers and parents were still inspecting the damage.
The roofs of the three classrooms had partially collapsed and burnt tables, chairs and cabinets were scattered all over the classrooms.
The school has an enrolment of 360 pupils.
Principal Malesela Mohlape was busy inspecting a hole in the ceiling of another classroom that was not burnt but had been broken into.
"These people even got into other classes by either breaking through the burglar doors or the roof, but nothing was stolen.
"They even put a chair on top of a table, apparently to climb out of the classroom.
"This was a ghastly act," Mohlape said.
Zwane said the pupils were asked to go home untilMonday next week while investigations and alternative arrangements were being made for them.