DA lays charges after pupils prevented from attending school

The DA has laid criminal charges against those responsible for preventing 16 000 pupils attending school for three months. (AFP)

The DA has laid criminal charges against those responsible for preventing 16 000 pupils attending school for three months. (AFP)

"At about 10:30 this morning I laid a criminal charge in respect of the crime that is being committed which prevents learners from attending school," DA spokesperson for basic education Annette Lovemore told the Mail & Guardian on Thursday.

Since May pupils have been prevented from attending 59 schools in the John Taolo Gaetsewe District in the Northern Cape because of intimidation by service delivery protesters, the province's education minister, Grizelda Cjikela, said in a presentation to the provincial portfolio committee on education on Thursday.

Two primary schools and one high school in Olifantshoek with a total learner population of 2 583, did not write June exams, she said.

Lovemore said the South African Schools Act says that any person who "prevents a learner subject to compulsory attendance from attending a school is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or imprisonment".

Police should investigate the crime, find out who is responsible for the "crisis" and take action against perpetrators, she said.

The "highly volatile situation" prevented education officials, including Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, from visiting the area this week, basic education department spokesperson Panyaza Lesufi told the M&G.

Protesters burned down people's houses "every time officials tried to speak to the community", he said. Seven houses and one school had been burned down so far.

"We've handed the situation over to the police … once they have stabilised the area we will go back in there," he said.

A ministerial task team had been dealing with the problem since June, he said.

Spokesperson for the provincial education department, Sidney Stander, said affected grade 12 pupils had been placed in a "camp" in Barkley West where teachers, subject specialists and psychologists were helping pupils "continue with their studies".

Pupils in grades one to 11 were still "struggling", he said.

An intervention programme for these pupils had been drawn up to help them "catch-up" which would involve weekend classes and "teaching during the September holidays".

The upcoming Annual National Assessments, which measures literacy and numeracy in primary school grade was what the department "is really worried about", he said.

Schools in the district had performed badly in the assessments last year, he said, and the department was "worried that these protests [would] take our work backward".

The department had appealed to police to arrest protestors and had also appealed to parents and community members to "stand up and insist that protestors must not hold them to ransom".

Victoria John

Victoria John

Victoria studied journalism, specialising in photojournalism, at Rhodes University from 2004 to 2007. After traveling around the US and a brief stint in the UK she did a year's internship at The Independent on Saturday in Durban. She then worked as a reporter for the South African Press Association for a year before joining the Mail & Guardian as an education reporter in August 2011. Read more from Victoria John

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