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Eyewitnesses have given account of the scary level of violence in this week’s clash between boys at Pretoria’s Hoërskool Langenhoven and a group from outside the school.
A 16-year-old boy was arrested on Thursday morning, and later released into the custody of his parents. On Friday, the Pretoria Central police said they were investigating the circumstances with the intention of arresting more boys.
Two teams of senior officials from the provincial Education Department were at the school on Friday to stabilise the situation, spokesman Gershwin Cheunyane said.
The fight broke out as the school day ended at about 2pm on Wednesday and, according to refreshment vendors who are stationed outside the school gate every day, the confrontation was fierce and frightening.
“The boys were running up and down the length of the parking lot, shouting, cursing and hitting one other,” an ice-cream seller, who referred to himself as Sanele, said.
He said it was not unusual for confrontations to take place outside the school gates: “Boys will be boys, so they argue sometimes, push each other around, and there will be a klap with a fist, but this time it was different,” he said.
Fists flew, knives were drawn, bricks thrown and even pangas and small axes produced.
Four boys were seriously injured and rushed to hospital after the battle; one had part of his ear severed with a panga, and another was taken to hospital with a sharp weapon embedded in his back.
Another vendor, who did not want to give his name, described how he heard shouting and screaming from a distance, and when he looked he saw there was a scuffle. “I ignored them at first but as they continued and started running all over I realised it was serious.”
When the number of boys embroiled in the fighting increased and they started spreading out and towards the bottom end of the parking lot, he said he realised he could get hurt. He quickly packed up his snacks and retreated across the road.
He said schoolchildren gathered to watch, some joining in and fighting too. There was blood on the ground, he said.
Police spokeswoman Sergeant Ann Poortman said: “Today (on Friday) we concentrated on monitoring the situation and maintaining peace and order, but we are speaking to people who will lead us to the perpetrators.”
the Education Department had also ensured that police patrol the area after school, adding that investigations into the school and another implicated in the fighting, were ongoing.
The schoolchildren were advised not to wear uniform on Friday and were seen in their casual clothes.
At going-home time, the area outside the school gates was tense as police kept watch and media crews conducted interviews.
Taxis - with loud music blaring - jostled with parents who had come to fetch their children.
One parent who preferred anonymity said: “We are no longer sure which taxi and which group to steer clear of; this is all so unsettling.”
She said that although aware of minor incidents of violence at the parking lot, the one this week had made her realise how much danger her son was in.
“Until the police arrest more students he will not come home on his own.
“I will wait here for him to pick him up as he comes out,” she said.
Teachers were also visible on the grounds outside the school gates on Friday.
They attempted to chase the media away, and discouraged children and parents from talking to reporters.
Studies into school violence have identified an increase across South African schools in all forms, regardless of age or race, or whether a public or private learning institution.
The 2012 National School Violence Study found that 22 percent of high school pupils had been threatened with violence or had been victims of an assault, robbery and/or sexual assault at school during the year preceding the study.
This, the report said, translated to 1 020 597 secondary school pupils who had been violently victimised at school in that year.
The figure, the study said, extrapolated to 1 020 597 pupils who had encountered violence at school during that period.
The survey found that family and community factors played a huge role in the levels of violence occurring at school.
The responses showed that by the time young people entered secondary school, many of them had already been exposed to violence, either as victims or witnesses.
Some had seen people in their families intentionally hurting each other, some had themselves been assaulted. - Pretoria News