Limpopo school torched amid resistance to merger idea

Residents walk through debris of burnt down Ratjeke Primary School in GaRatjeke village, near Giyani, in Limpopo./ PETER RAMOTHWALA
Residents walk through debris of burnt down Ratjeke Primary School in GaRatjeke village, near Giyani, in Limpopo./ PETER RAMOTHWALA

Residents against the merger of two schools in GaRatjeke village in Limpopo are suspected to be behind the torching of two blocks of a school in protest against the move.

Sewela Selowa, 63, who has three grandchildren at Ratjeke Primary, told Sowetan she was devastated when she woke up on Wednesday to find the building gutted.

"I stay next to the school and when I woke up on Wednesday I found the building smouldering. My grandchildren have been galavanting with nothing to do every day.

"Whoever burnt the school should be arrested," she said.

A member of the Selowa Tribal Council in the village, Masutane Selowa, said the community had been demanding a safe building for more than 300 pupils who are currently learning under life- threatening conditions.

"We didn't burn our schools because we built them. It was build by our parents in 1977. We had shut down schooling since last month because government wants to relocate our school and merge it with Maekwe Primary School," she said. Selowa said their protests had been peaceful.

"We suspect someone burnt our school knowing very well that our children will be transferred to the neighbouring school. We are not going to allow it. We want the MEC for education [Polly Boshielo] to allocate our children [places at] schools, not Maekwe," Selowa said.

She said the school blocks were torched on Tuesday and Thursday.

During a community meeting yesterday, residents resolved to arrange a meeting with Boshielo to resolve the impasse this week.

Community member Kgaugelo Makatshaba said they had already elected a delegation to meet with Boshielo.

Makatshaba said what angered the community last week was a letter purported to be from the department claiming that it was going to deliver mobile classrooms instead of building a new school.

"We met as residents and objected to that because we felt someone was playing games with us," he said.

Boshielo vented her frustration over the incident on social media.

"What is wrong with us as a nation and communities?

"What kind of people are we who burn a primary school when we fight!" she posted.

Department of education spokesperson Sam Makondo condemned the incident.

"We are going to assess the damage and we're likely to provide mobile classrooms for pupils to return to school," Makondo.

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