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KAMKHWELI PUPILS RIOT OVER SHORTAGE OF TEACHERS

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SITEKI – Classes were suspended at KaMkhweli High School yesterday as pupils rioted over a shortage of teachers.
This was the second time in just over a month that learning has been disrupted at the school.


Early last month about 400 pupils embarked on a week-long class boycott.
The riots yesterday were led by Form V boys but other pupils later joined in and demonstrated after they had been forcefully dragged out of classrooms.


Police were called to the school as the pupils chanted slogans and sang protest songs while waving tree branches and other weapons.


Locked


The school head teacher reportedly locked herself in her office while teachers remained inside the staffroom.
According to a source, since the beginning of the year, Form V pupils have not been learning science subjects, Geography and History because there are no teachers specialising in the aforementioned subjects.


“Form V pupils are gravely concerned because they will be writing their final examination at the end of the year. They are worried that they won’t do well in the aforementioned subjects if they continue to learn on their own without the guidance of a teacher,” said the source.


The pupils reportedly met after classes on Tuesday to plan the riot.
A source who witnessed the incident alleged that rioting was in fact a second option.
“The pupils had planned to march to the Ministry of Education and Training in Mbabane to deliver a petition but they failed to get money for transport hence they decided to riot,” said the source.


Waited


It was gathered that yesterday morning, a group of Form V boys arrived at the school early and waited outside the main entrance.
They allegedly refused to participate in the morning prayers but allowed other pupils to attend the morning assembly.
After the morning prayer session, the boys demonstrated from the gate into the school premises; carrying three branches and waving other weapons.


They forcefully dragged other pupils out of classrooms while threatening to assault teachers who were getting ready to start lessons.
The police had to intervene as the pupils threatened to beat up some teachers who were taking pictures of the riot with their cellphones.


The situation was calmed by the arrival of Siphofaneni Member of Parliament (MP) Mduduzi Simelane.
Simelane, who is a former educator, pleaded with the pupils to calm down and put down the weapons they were carrying.  He then requested them to present to him their grievances.


“In our meeting with the pupils, they told me that they were now fed up because there is a shortage of teachers at the school. They mentioned that they have not been learning three subjects because there are no teachers specialising in those subjects. The pupils also told me that they did not see eye to eye with the head teacher,” Simelane said.


He said after the meeting, he called education officials to formally present the grievances of the pupils.
The legislator said education officials assured him that new teachers would be deployed to the school this week, starting from today.


Stakeholders


Nevertheless, Simelane said he would meet with the different stakeholders today and attempt to sort out the issues affecting learning at the school.


Head teacher Thembelihle Mamba did not respond to several calls that were made to her mobile phone yesterday afternoon. Attempts to get a comment from the Ministry of Education and Training were unsuccessful as both cellphones of Lubombo REO Musa Mthupha and Minister Lady Howard rang unanswered when called several times yesterday afternoon.


Chief Police Information and Communications Officer Superintendent Phindile Vilakati confirmed that police were called yesterday as pupils rioted.


She said their initial assessment suggested that there was no damage to school property but she said police would continue to monitor the situation. Last month, about 400 pupils boycotted classes in protest over the administration’s decision to institute disciplinary action against 21 school soccer team players.          
The pupils vowed not to attend lessons until the school administration abandoned its plan to take disciplinary action against the 21 boys.


This publication reported at the time that the school’s administration had indicated that the 21 boys would face charges for undermining the authority of the head teacher and theft of school property. The 21 boys had penned a letter to the head teacher, demanding that the school soccer team should participate in a soccer tournament for Siphofaneni schools.
However, the head teacher reportedly took great exception to the manner in which the letter was crafted.


Force


The boys also locked out everyone, including teachers and the head teacher, in an attempt to force the administration to give into their demands.
This further infuriated the head teacher who then reported the matter to the police.


The pupils eventually called off the class boycott and returned to class after the administration dropped all charges against the 21 boys and further assured the school’s soccer team that it would participate in the football tournament.

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