Pupils hurt during school protest

Cape Town - Two pupils and a protester were injured when demonstrators prevented the principal from entering the grounds of a Crossroads primary school on Monday.

There was a strong police presence at Qingqa Mntwana Primary School, where a number of teachers and parents were opposed to principal Nosthembele Mahlathi’s return, while others welcomed her back. Some pupils were alleged to have thrown stones.

A boy is escorted from school after parents protested against the principal's return. Picture: Cindy Waxa/Cape Argus. Credit: INLSA

Bronagh Casey, spokeswoman for Education MEC Donald Grant, said it was reported that a protester and two pupils were injured during the incident. Their injuries were not serious and they received treatment.

Casey said the principal had been prevented from going to school last year after “certain allegations” were made against her by teachers and residents. Mahlathi, pictured, stayed away as she feared for her safety.

“Our officials have investigated and have found no grounds to take action against her,” Casey said. “She has never been suspended because there were no grounds on which to do so. Therefore she has every right to return to the school.”

Some parents and school governing body members who spoke to the Cape Argus said they did not want Mahlathi at the school. They said she did not respect parents and did not treat pupils well.

But some parents said they wanted her to return so that teaching could resume.

The Western Cape Education Department said it would continue to work with everyone concerned to ensure teaching and learning continued.

It was unclear if the principal was to return to the school on Tuesday. The department said police would be deployed again this morning.

At another school in Crossroads - Dr Nelson R Mandela High School - teachers again refused to teach on Monday. Last month, teaching at this school was disrupted for a few days due to unhappiness over the principal’s return.

Teachers said they remained unhappy and wanted the people assigned to guard the school gates removed. They said the guards had insulted teachers.

After last month’s protest, Casey said the department had sent the teachers letters saying their refusal to work was in violation of their contracts, and required them to provide reasons why misconduct charges should not be laid against them. After this, the teachers returned to work.

On Monday, 20 teachers refused to work, Casey said. They said they would not return to work until the security personnel had been removed.

“It is most unfortunate that these educators see fit to protest during school hours and to disrupt the learning opportunities of these learners.”