Teaching and learning resumed under very heavy security presence at schools around Phoenix, north of Durban, in KwaZulu-Natal.

This after the KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC, Kwazi Mshengu, was inundated with calls from parents concerned for the safety of their children following racial tensions in the town during which at least 20 people died.

Parents scared to send their children back to school in Phoenix following unrest:

The tensions were sparked by the unrest two weeks ago, which had followed the jailing of former president, Jacob Zuma. More than 3 000 people have died in the widespread unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

The police and defence force members patrolled schools in Phoenix on Monday, the first day of the third term for public schools.

MEC Mshengu visited the area and says teaching and learning resumed without any challenges.

“The safety of learners is the responsibility of all of us. As the department of education we can guarantee them that while they are within the schooling premises indeed they will be safe because at least we are in control of that particular environment. But we have also worked very hard with the police and law enforcement agencies to ensure there is a heightened police visibility in the area. It was important that learners and teachers feel safe. There are stringent security measures in place so that they can attend with ease knowing they are safe,” says Mshengu.

He says psychological support will be given to all affected learners at schools in Phoenix.

Tight security in schools in Phoenix:

SADTU satisfied

The South African Teacher’s Union (SADTU) in KwaZulu-Natal says it is satisfied with the security arrangements at schools in Phoenix.

The provincial secretary of SADTU, Nomarashiya Caluza, says communities must work together with schools to denounce violence and racism.

“We have police, we have soldiers around here, but the fact of the matter is that they will not be here for all the time, it’s important that community members work together, education is a societal matter, it required that as partners, we have to come together and give hope to the teachers , give hope to the parents, as well as learners that the issue  of tolerance is very important. We are saying our hope now is with learners, that when they go back home, they must be able to denounce violence, denounce the killings of innocent people, denounce racism,” adds Caluza.

Regarding the overall re-opening of schools, Caluza says not all schools were ready to start with their academic programmes, particularly those that were vandalised during the unrest.

“We still get calls from members who are saying not everything has been sorted. We did have a meeting with the department where they were presenting their plan especially when it comes to the schools that were vandalised, because you know that they are all over the province. The expectation was that there be mobile classes, and in some schools they have not been delivered. The issue of water, in some schools the water tanks have not been filled. There are complaints all over from school principals they don’t have teachers, the issue of substitute teachers have not been sorted.”

‘Community failed learners’

Teaching did not take place at Emthethweni and Bavumile primary schools in Umlazi, south of Durban, where laptops were stolen and buildings vandalised during the unrest.

The chairperson of Emthethweni’s governing body, Menzi Biyela, is hot under the collar over this.

Biyela says the community of Umlazi has failed the learners.

“Currently, as a component of teaching as failed the community of Umlazi as we come from the community that protect the school. Schools groom children to be responsible future citizen. All NGOs, CBOs and churches must come together an intervened as they can speak or tell the community the truth.”

An inspector of the Dukumbane circuit, Bukhosibakhe Mzolo, says 38 schools in the Umlazi school district are affected.

“Under the Umlazi district  a total of 38 schools were attacked and the damage was quite extensive, mostly the items that were targeted by those who were looting the schools were the computers and nutritional programmes items,” explains Mzolo. Story by Njabulo Mntungwa