Students injured as Seepapitso burns

KANYE: Several students at Seepapitso Senior Secondary School were injured, while others were admitted to the Seventh Day Adventist Church Hospital after clashing with the police on Friday.

The clashes, which happened towards lunchtime, ended with fire engulfing the school surroundings. One male student was taken in for questioning by the police in connection with the inferno. When The Monitor team arrived at the school, police in a pick-up had just entered the school premises and started firing at students who had gathered at the assembly area. The police in full riot kit then started chasing students in all directions flogging them in the process.

It was both a funny and frightening situation, as the police ran after students flogging them and journalists in hot pursuit so they did not miss any action. It was a day after June 16, which would have reminded some of the events of June 16, 1976 in Soweto when South African black children clashed with police over the imposition of Afrikaans language as a medium of instruction in black schools.

Some Seepapitso SSS teachers were dumbfounded at how the situation unfolded. They revealed that students did nothing that warranted police intervention. A teacher, who preferred anonymity, said: “Yes, some students were unhappy that their teachers did not want to teach the backlog of lessons that accumulated while they were on strike.” Further, the teacher said some students went outside their classrooms in protest. “That is when the head teacher summoned them to the assembly area. While awaiting to be addressed, the police pounced on them and started firing rubber bullets, in the process beating them with sticks,” the teacher said.

The teacher also said they had to hide some of the students in their offices because they did not know what wrong they (students) had done to warrant such police brutality.

Some students who talked to The Monitor said they were terrified by how the police treated them. They said they were waiting to be addressed at the assembly point when out of nowhere the police rounded them off. The students said the moment they saw the police van, they knew trouble was coming, so they had to run for their dear lives.

They admitted that some students were protesting against teachers who did not want to teach lessons that they missed during strike but it was not their intention to vandalise or set fire to school property. “All we wanted was to be addressed on what to do next because examination time is approaching yet teachers are refusing to teach topics that we did not cover while they were on strike. Instead of being addressed they sent us the police. What do they think we are? We just want education, nothing more,” one student said panting for breath.

Efforts to locate the headmaster were fruitless as he was nowhere to be seen in the school premises. Even the Southern District Council chairperson, Leach Tlhomelang, who had rushed to the scene, could not locate the school head to get answers as to what really led to the melee. After students had been driven out of school, fire broke out just in front of the school main gate raging through trees and grass in the nearby homesteads and minutes later the police were battling with another fire behind the school yard just opposite the school kitchen.

Young pupils from Matsaakgang Primary School were also caught in the crossfire as the police and Seepapitso students clashed, which prompted the panicking parents to dash to school to collect their children. In a similar development, boarders at Goodhope Senior School were sent home after they rioted on Friday evening.

The Ministry of Education and Skills Development spokesperson, Nomsa Zuze, said on Friday evening the boarders started throwing missiles and the headmaster tried to calm them down but to no avail. The disturbance started in the morning but school authorities managed to stabilise the situation.  However, in the evening, according to Zuze, the students had to be sent home to call their parents and only return to school on Wednesday. She would not shed light on whether Seepapitso Senior would be operational today (Monday), save to say that students left without official correspondence from school authorities.

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