Durban - Imagine going on holiday and returning to find a tombstone inside your classroom.
This was the situation at Mthwane Senior Secondary in the Umzimkhulu area last week.
The school was built on a farm in 1996 after the owner left the area. Community members contributed R250 each to build one classroom at a time because there was no high school nearby.
As more people moved into the area, the Education Department got involved and brought in more teachers.
Today the school has 400 pupils in 10 classes, while on the grounds are three other graves.
The locals said all was well until last year, when a woman arrived claiming to be a beneficiary of the land.
The woman, who would not be named, said it was her grandfather who was buried in the classroom. She said the department was made aware of the grave when the school was built.
“That’s my grandfather in that grave. He is buried on his farm where my grandmother as well as their child are also buried.
“The fact that there are other graves at the school is a clear indication that the land was used as a burial site.
“We are from Kokstad and my grandfather was given that farm in Umzimkhulu when people were given their land back,” she said.
She said her grandfather had made her a beneficiary in his will and that the family had waited long enough for the department to give them the go-ahead to perform the ceremony.
She threatened to take legal action should the tombstone be removed.
Teachers and pupils said they had not known there was a grave inside the Grade 10 classroom until they walked in.
Education Department spokesperson Sihle Mlotshwa said they were aware of the issue at the school but had never been presented with evidence that the land on which the school was built belonged to the family.
“We will provide mobile classrooms in the interim while we engage with the relevant stakeholders, including the woman who claims the land,” he said.
School governing body chairperson Siziwe Mbokazi said the land dispute intensified last year to the extent that the school had to be closed temporarily.
She said they did not know the family claiming the land, but had since heard that the family claims to have lived on the land around 1960.
“We are worried about the situation as it has affected teaching and learning at the school.
“Last year the department provided 10 mobile classrooms; however, the problem is that the area is rural. There is no water or electricity and the 10 classes are not enough.
“Land has been provided by the local chief to fit these 10 classes and more. We would like more classrooms so teaching is no longer disrupted,” she said.