Another principal's office set alight
MANZINI - The principal’s office at St Philomena Primary School was extensively burnt with the aid of petrol by unknown people yesterday morning.
The police Bomb Disposal Unit was called to the scene to assess evidence.
This is the second principal’s office to be burnt in as many weeks as last week the office of Ngwane Practicing Primary school was also burnt by unknown people on a Monday night.
The school’s night watchman Jabulani Matse said he did not notice the arsonists who sneaked in and set the office alight at about 1am.
The guard was only 20 metres away from the office.
Musa Hleta, the Principal, said he was at home in Mbabane, when he received a call just after 2am notifying him about the incident.
"The guard and teachers who called me said the school was on fire and I immediately called the Fire and Emergency department. I then drove down to the school and found that the office was already extensively burnt."
He said when he arrived, lights were still on outside his office, but the fire had already been put out. "When we examined the office we found that two windows were broken. There was extensive damage to the furniture, photocopiers, files, trophies and other office equipment.
"Luckily though, the fire did not spread to the staff room. There was a gas cylinder and several tins of polish that could have easily fuelled the fire and made it uncontrollable."
Hleta said the financial records were protected from the flames because they were in a metal cabinet.ã€€ However, all records of the Orphaned and Vulnerable Children paid for by the European Union (EU) were burnt to ashes.
He showed reporters a heap of ashes on his desk. "These were pupils’ Grade VII exercise books. They were all burnt and I don’t know how they will recover the material that was in them."
When the Times reporters were in the school yesterday at about 10am, police officers had set up camp there, having arrived in the morning just after the fire incident.
Pupils were scattered around while the principal said he mulled over sending them home early for the day "because it is clear that we can’t teach under these circumstances today."
The principal said he would use the Guidance and Counselling office in the meantime for administrative purposes.
... petrol bomb ruled out - cops
MANZINI – Police Public Relations Officer, Superintendent Wendy Hleta, said a petrol bomb was ruled out among things used to ignite the fire at St Philomena Primary School.
"Petrol was used, but preliminary investigations have ruled out the possible use of a petrol bomb. It would seem the people just needed a flammable liquid," she said.
Hleta said no one had been arrested yesterday, though police investigations were still continuing.
‘Teachers’ strike affected school’
NGCULWINI – The teachers’ strike over salary increments also affected St Philomena Primary School as only Grade VII teachers were on duty in the past weeks.
The Principal Musa Hleta, said only Grade VII teachers were on duty. "Things got better yesterday (Monday) when SNAT sent text messages informing members to return to work. We did not anticipate that such a thing could happen because all teachers were back at work."
He suspected that the arson was not motivated by the strike. "I suspect this was someone who wanted to burn the school so that it would seem the incident was connected to the teachers strike."
Hleta said he had, however, not received any threats from anyone prior to the incident. Hleta said the school had 627 pupils.
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