Teachers at several Mpumalanga schools down tools over safety issues

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Teaching and learning have been disrupted in several schools around the Kamasoyi area between Hazyview and White River in Mpumalanga. This is after teachers affiliated to different labour unions downed tools demanding to be addressed by the Education MEC, Bonakele Majuba, on issues of lack of safety in schools.

Last week, armed criminals attacked teachers and learners in Jeruralema High School robbing them of their cellphones and a vehicle which was later recovered.

Teachers affiliated to different unions gathered outside the White Hazy Education Circuit offices. They are accusing the education department in the province of not doing enough to strengthen safety in schools.

Last week, some learners of Jerusalema High School were allegedly assaulted by criminals who were armed with a firearms and knives. It is alleged that several shots were fired before the criminals fled the scene with teachers’ belongings. The criminals gained access to the school by cutting the fence recently erected at the school.

The Branch Chairperson of the National Teachers’ Union, Anna Marobe, says teachers now fear for their lives.

“We want schools to be taken as business entities, we want them to hire security, we want cameras at the schools. We are not safe there. People can just get in and out.”

Last year, a number of schools were attacked by criminals in Marite near Bushbuckridge. In one of the schools, the principal was robbed while administering examinations.

The Branch Chairperson of the South African Democratic Teachers Union, Jack Shabalala, claims that very little is done by government to ensure safety in schools.

“We are saying there’s never been any meaningful intervention coming from the side of the department. These cases were reported, and nothing happened. So, there’s never been any intervention and I want to correct that. And then secondly, we are saying this is the first action of its kind where we are saying enough is enough. We have heard it and we have had enough. It cannot be that it can continue as business as usual when our members are terrorists because of what happened in Jerusalema High. That was actually the last straw.”

Meanwhile, the Provincial Chairperson of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union, Fanie Ngwenyama, says schooling in the area will remain at a halt until their demands are met.

“So, we are demanding that those that are in offices, the MEC of Education, the MEC of Safety and Security and the Provisional Commissioner must urgently come and meet with us. Possibly even receive the demands of the workers so that they can respond to those demands, so that our workers work in a safe environment.”

Education Spokesperson in Mpumalanga, Jasper Zwane, says the matter is receiving the necessary attention.

“A lot need to be done to rid these incidences in our schools. But there is a commitment on our part to address this. There was an instance where some schools had security guards and some were killed, about five of them in the past four years in schools. So, it’s a matter that we will continue to look into until there is semblance of stability and order in our schools.”

Zwane says a meeting has been scheduled to take place on Tuesday, between MEC Majuba and the representatives of the labour unions.