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Durban - Angry parents and pupils defied a court order on Wednesday, turning violent after 12 teachers - who they accuse of sexual misconduct - returned to the Chesterville school.
A large crowd, including pupils, stoned cars, hurled rubbish and sprayed teachers with a hosepipe. They made verbal threats before being dispersed by public order police.
Parents said there would be dire consequences for the teachers if they returned to Umkhumbane Secondary School today.
The protests followed an interim Durban High Court order granted on Tuesday to allow the return of the 12 teachers and a school clerk.
The application against the school governing body (SGB) was brought by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education to urgently reinstate the teachers, as pupils were missing out on lessons.
The principal, Ntokozo Ngobese, and SGB chairwoman, Ntombifikile Makhudu, were also cited as respondents.
However, when pupils learnt that the teachers had returned on Wednesday, they became angry, telling the teachers they were not welcome.
Ngobese said pupils were in class when the teachers arrived, accompanied by officials from the department and the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union.
He said he was instructed to call a special assembly to announce their return and he agreed one would be held during a break.
“While they were waiting I don’t know what happened and havoc started and learners were breaking windows,” he said. “They sprayed them with a hosepipe, they were uncontrollable. They hit the cars and for about an hour there was chaos.”
The principal said he had told the pupils that what they did “was not right”.
“The department brought the teachers and they were chased away…” Ngobese said.
He said he was not opposed to their return. Pupils, however, were adamant that they had to leave.
“We don’t want them here. They must never set their foot in this school and we would rather have new teachers,” said one pupil.
“If you dare come again we will burn your cars,” warned another.
A parent, Phumelele Mnyandu, said she would not let the teachers back at the school as long as her child was there.
“They must arrest us, not the principal. He is not the one who chased them away,” she told a crowd of pupils, who were throwing stones and rubbish at the teachers. The police had to intervene and escort the teachers out of school.
Three of the teachers were accused of sexually abusing pupils in return for better marks, and nine others joined them in solidarity. However, a department investigation had found no evidence to implicate the teachers.
Department spokesman, Muzi Mahlambi, said they were going to be charging the principal for his alleged role in disrupting schooling.
The SGB was also going to be disbanded after the protests on Wednesday.
“We can’t have a department structure causing havoc and chaos. The principal is opposing the reinstatement of the teachers,” he claimed.
Mahlambi said the department believed that “sanity would prevail” today and that the community would support the teachers.
“We can’t replace these teachers, there are no others,” he said. “If evidence shows the teachers are involved in sexual misconduct we will not hesitate to deal with the matter.”
Commenting on the lost school time, Mahlambi said there was a “catch-up” plan to ensure the pupils, who had missed weeks of school, would not fall behind.