AS Vuwani unrests rage on, a disappointed Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says the northern Limpopo district that produced some of the top learners in the country will regress.
At least 25 schools were set alight in the trouble-torn area in the on-going protests against incorporation into a new municipality that will include the nearby Malamulele.
The latest incident in which a school was set ablaze happened last night following the arrest of eight more people.
This was in connection with last week’s violence during which public property was torched and looted.
A house belonging to a community member was also set alight notwithstanding a heavy police presence in the area.
By Friday, the number of arrests had escalated to 25.
The amount of damage caused is estimated to be more than R400 million, according to the Department of Basic Education.
About 60 000 pupils are directly affected by the ongoing protests as schooling has been brought to a complete halt.
“Despite being a rural region, Vhembe is one of the rural districts whose performance in the past has been extremely well. What is even more worrying is that the area of Vuwani is one of the best performers. Your top schools come from this area. For me it’s disappointing,“ Motshekga lamented.
The minister bemoaned the situation following a stalemate gathering with traditional leaders on Friday.
She and several other ministers had visited Vuwani in past week in an effort to bring calm to the area.
Motshekga said her main concern was the loss of valuable school records.
She added: “While many people are concerned about the burning of school buildings, I am also concerned about the records which also burnt during the arson incidents. You can rebuild classes but you can’t recreate those records. Our systems do not have backup. For now, our main priority is to mainly protect the remaining infrastructure.”
Limpopo Congress of South African Students (Cosas) chairperson Ayanda Makwana has appealed to Premier Stan Mathabatha to request the deployment of the army to calm the situation.
“We are appealing to the premier to intervene in the situation. We are deeply disappointed by the actions of Vuwani residents. Burning the schools is violation of the rights of learners to access education. This is going to have a negative impact of the provincial pass rate (of 80%) we have set” said Makwana.
Cosas’ sentiments were echoed by the provincial government, saying the burning of schools in Vuwani will impact on the end of year results.
Mathabatha, who was conspicuous by his absence in Vuwani for almost a week after violence erupted, has called for calm and urged the community to fight against criminal elements. He visited the area today. Residents have been protesting since Tuesday.