Eager pupils return to Vuwani schools‚ but staff continue to stay away

Fear kept teachers and principals at some Vuwani schools in Limpopo from reporting to work on Monday morning.

Thousands of pupils from the protest-stricken area were expected to go back to class after weeks of demarcation protests resulted in the destruction of 24 schools‚ including 19 that were left completely ravaged by flames.

Some pupils dressed in uniforms of Vhudazini Secondary School‚ which was completely burned down‚ arrived in the morning to find that there were no teachers.

 A female Grade 9 pupil said they were going back home because there was no sign that there would be classes. The pupil said they were also afraid for their safety due to threats that they would be targeted.

 “I am angry inside. Even if they bring mobile classrooms‚ some people can come and burn them. We are not safe‚” she said.

 She said they expected to see more pupils and school staff‚ but less than 10 pupils stood outside the gate.

The school yard was quiet‚ while broken windows and piles of burnt furniture bore testament to the damaged caused by the fires.

Another pupil‚ also in Grade 9‚ said they could not go to other schools.

 “I’m worried about my future. We are not even allowed at other schools because they think the protesters will come and burn their schools because we are there‚” she said.

 The education department is expected to start delivering 74 readily available mobile classrooms to the area‚ while the total needed has been estimated at over 200.

The resolution to open schools came after traditional leaders spent days meeting with an inter-ministerial task team from government to resolve issues in the area.

Senior traditional leader Chief Livhuwani Matsila was also waiting outside Vhafamadi Secondary School‚ where teachers and the principal were also absent.

 Matsila said people were afraid because due to threats and intimidation‚ but urged teachers to return to work.

 “Certainly the modus operandi of the anarchists and the arsonists has been to threaten anyone going to school or work. But I like the bravery of the learners. They are ready in uniform‚” he said.

Matsila said they were spreading the message in the hope that schools in the area would be fully operational by Tuesday.

 A resident‚ who asked not to be named and who had grandchildren in Grades 11 and 12‚ said the community was sad that pupils were missing out on lessons.

 “They can resolve the municipality’s issues but they must leave our children out of it‚” she said.

 Over 20 people‚ including an African National Congress councillor‚ have been arrested in connection with the violent protests in the area.

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