Yet another school in the OR Tambo district has been torched after Chief Henry Bokleni (CHB) High School near Libode was set alight on Wednesday night.
This takes to three the number of schools burnt by angry pupils in the district this week. The other schools affected were Nogemane High and Sandi High, both in Ngqeleni.
Authorities said the total cost of damage to the schools would run into millions at a time when the Department of Education was already struggling to build schools in the province.
CHB High principal Zalisile Joyi estimated it would cost about R1-million to repair a burnt classroom which contained groceries for the nutrition and feeding scheme, as well as cutlery, stoves, documents and other items.
He said attempts had also been made to burn down his office but community members had reacted quickly and doused the flames.
Joyi and SGB chairman Mandla Jali said two weeks ago angry pupils had run amok, breaking windows and damaging other parts of the building.
Residents suspect some pupils were responsible for the fire as it start – ed shortly after they staged a protest.
The pupils were demanding that parents no longer be forced to pay R250 towards salaries of SGB-employed teachers and that they get to participate in all sporting activities in the district and at other levels.
“These issues were resolved on Tuesday in a meeting between teachers, parents and pupil representatives, and the protest was called off,” Jali said. “So it came as a surprise when the school was found burnt a night later.”
Village men armed with knobkerries and sjamboks have since taken it upon themselves to guard the school and ensure the safety of teachers and pupils writing trial exams.
Police are investigating and a case of arson has been opened.
The ANC condemned the damage, with provincial spokesman Mlibo Qoboshiyane saying they were acts of criminality and calling on the communities to do more to protect public assets.