Over 200 pupils sent home after school hostel protest turns nasty
Four days after academic activities were suspended at Onkgopotse Tiro Combined School, near Mafikeng, pupils who staged a protest over renovations of school buildings were shown the door by the school's governing body.
A "full scale protest" began on Monday as pupils disrupted teaching and learning activities, burnt tyres at the school gate and boycotted classes, according to the North West education department.
Department spokesperson Ellias Malindi said the pupils had concerns about the poor condition of the buses which transported them to school, and called for teachers to be evicted from the teachers' quarters (houses) so that learners could occupy them.
North West Education MEC Mmaphefo Matsemela slammed the protest, and the behaviour of the children.
“I am really disappointed and dismayed by the disrespectful behaviour displayed by our learners. I condemn this behaviour in the strongest terms" said Matsemela.
Matsemela said the concerns raised by the pupils were "totally irrelevant and misguided" because other accommodation and transport had already been arranged.
He said the department had ordered renovations to the school's hostels last year. The buildings had reportedly become unsafe. The 296 learners who had resided in the hostels were temporarily relocated to Boitseanape and Batswana secondary school hostels.
Matsemela said, however, "The appointed contractor could not finish the renovations on time according to the agreed period and ended up leaving the site. The learners eventually became angry that renovations were taking so long. They wanted to return to the Onkgopotse Tiro Combined School hostels," he said.
In an urgent meeting to resolve the matter on Thursday it was decided that learners who had participated would be suspended ahead of disciplinary hearings next week.
"The SGB decided that learners should return home since they were not interested in attending school. They should come back to school accompanied by their parents on Tuesday at 10am when they will be given an opportunity, in the presence of their parents, to indicate if they want to attend school or not," said Malindi.
Academic activities were expected to resume on Tuesday, provided the learners reported to the school with their parents.
Teachers were also expected to implement a recovery plan for the lost days, according to the department. "We are now in the third quarter of the year - a very crucial period," added Matsemela.