Another school has been burnt in Limpopo amid the ongoing dispute over municipal demarcation areas, Cooperative Governance Minister Des Van Rooyen said on Tuesday.
Mawela Primary School at Masakona, in Sereni village, was set on fire, apparently by residents opposing government plans to include them under a new Limpopo municipality.
Addressing a media briefing in Polokwane, Van Rooyen said confirmed the latest incident of a school being torched but said government could not tamper with the decision of the Municipal Demarcation Board.
“We cannot tamper with the provision after the new establishment has been realised,” said Van Rooyen.
“Last night we received another sad news of a school that was burnt at Masakona. This cowardly act set us backward as the country,” he said.
In recent weeks more than 20 schools have been torched or severely damaged by protesting residents in Vuwani in Limpopo amidst opposition to the new demarcation boundaries.
Van Rooyen claimed that people in the area are committed to return to school and and were willing to ensure that schooling resumed, especially for the 2,500 matriculants who are preparing or mid-year examinations.
“Everyone is committed to a peaceful solution to their problem, our learners we have met them on several occasions, they made it very clear that as we burn their school, we burn their future,” said Van Rooyen.
Van Rooyen and his team also presented a mediation team to help repair the psychological damage caused by ongoing violent protests.
Residents of Vuwani and neighbouring villages launched a protest against government plans to incorporate their villages under the new Malamulele municipality.
Last month, they lost a high court bid to overturn the demarcation board decision, and resorted to violent protests.
The Mawela Primary School which was burnt on Monday increased the number of schools affected by arson attacks to 24.
Grade 12 learner Mpho Rambau said it is frustrating that learners always came to school but that no teaching was taking place.
Rambau and other pupils at Vhudzani secondary school at Mashau village, about 25 kilometres from Vuwani, said their hope was fading that schooling would resume anytime soon.
“We returned to school hoping that teaching will happen, but nothing is happening,” Rambau said. “My concern is that we are going to write crucial examination soon, and we are not going to be given preferential treatment because there was protests.
“We will write similar exams with those who are not affected, and will be expected to perform equally.”
Others pupils also expressed concern that they were being left behind because of the unrest.
Shooling has not started despite at least 40 mobile classrooms and furniture being delivered to schools.
The protests have continued and certain areas remain volatile, with teachers fearing to report for duty.
Van Rooyen said the inter-ministerial had appointed Father Smangaliso Mkhathswa and Professor Mary MetCalfe to spearhead the intervention team.
However, it is not clear how long it will take intervention team to resolve and repair damaged relations between affected parties.
Community leader Nsovo Sambo said a decision to suspend schooling had been taken by community after they were not satisfied with meetings with government.
“They are insisting on taking us to a place we never desire, and we will insist on remaining in Makhado (municipality).”
Sambo said the community further resolved that no voting would take place in Vuwani unless government listened to their demands.
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