Just one new school opens in Vuwani
It was the only one built after more than 30 were destroyed in violent protests last year Pupils hurt in school fire
VHAFAMADI Secondary School in Vuwani, Limpopo, was the first school to be razed to the ground during demarcation protests last year.
Now, the school is the only one of the more than 30 that were vandalised and burnt that has been rebuilt.
Residents in more than 50 villages in the Vuwani district last year embarked on protests after refusing to be incorporated into a new Lim 345 Municipality.
The new municipality is a merger of Vuwani, Hlanganani and Malamulele, and is expected to be renamed the Collins Chabane Municipality, after the late former public services and administration minister.
Chabane, who came from the region, died in a car accident in 2015.
The Vuwani community shut down schools for nearly three months last year. When they eventually reopened, pupils at the vandalised schools were accommodated in mobile classrooms.
Pupils at Vhafamadi have now been moved from the mobile classrooms into their new building.
Principal Mashau Thenga said the 15 new classes and administration block were built thanks to donations.
But the school still needs nine more classrooms and furniture to avoid overcrowding.
The gutted building has not been demolished yet and Thenga hopes to raise more funds to build a hall.
“When the schools reopened after the protests, it was hard to teach in the mobile classrooms,” he said.
While they were happy with the new school, they were still counting the cost of the fire, which also destroyed all their pupil and management records.
Thenga said once things went back to normal last year, the school called a parents meeting. “It was very tough. We had to speak to parents and ask them to support the learners and the teachers.
“We needed to know that there would be no more disruptions,” Thenga said.
He added that parents realised that the closure of the schools had left their children disadvantaged.
“We lost 30 learners. They moved to other schools because their parents could afford to move them. Those who couldn’t saw how they were failing their children, and they stopped the protests,” the principal said.
He said one of the biggest worries was that violent protests like last year’s bred ill-discipline among the pupils.
“When learners returned to school after seeing the burning of property, it was hard to reinstil discipline, which was one of the reasons the matric pass rate dropped from 73% in 2015 to 60.5% last year,” he said.
Despite the drop, Vhafamadi is one of the best performing schools in the Vhuronga 2 Circuit, with 35 distinctions. The circuit came out as the best performing one in Limpopo for two years in a row.
One of the school’s candidates, Nirini Sidimela, achieved six distinctions. Three others obtained five.
Grade 12 pupil Makhadzi Phuravhathu said the new school was a huge improvement from the mobile classrooms.
“It’s such a relief to be able to study in a large classroom and learn freely. My main focus this year will be on learning and nothing else.”
At the end of last year, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga told Parliament it would cost R462m to rebuild, renovate and repair the damaged schools in Vuwani.
Limpopo education spokesperson Dr Naledzani Rasila said they should have plans by April to repair the other schools.
We asked parents to support pupils and teachers
A FIRE at a school in Industria West on the West Rand has left several pupils injured.
Emer-G-Med spokesperson Maxwell Cohen said the structural fire at the school broke out just after noon yesterday.
“The patients sustained minor to moderate smoke inhalation burns.
“They were assessed on the scene and then transported to various hospitals while firefighters continued to put out the fire.”
ER24 spokesperson Russel Meiring said the fire had started in a storeroom, which was destroyed in the blaze.
Meiring said that by the time emergency services arrived, the pupils and teachers were evacuating the premises.
“Five children, aged between 13 and 15, were found to have been suffering from minor smoke inhalation. Fortunately, no serious injuries were reported,” he said.
“Two of the children were transported to a nearby hospital for further treatment while the remaining patients declined further treatment.”
Cohen said the City of Joburg had sent three fire engines to extinguish the blaze.
Later in the day, Meiring confirmed that the fire had been put out.
Emergency Management Services spokesperson Nana Radebe said the cause of the fire was unknown but a fire safety team would be dispatched to the scene to investigate. –
STARTING OVER: A pupil at Vhafamadi Secondary School in Vuwani walks to his new classroom. The old school was razed during protests.