Police keep watch over Isipingo Primary School pupils in the assembly area. Picture Zanele Zulu

Something is amiss when primary schoolchildren engage in a class boycott. It smacks of manipulation, youngsters involving themselves so passionately in a protest about refunds and dabbling in staffroom politics.

It happened at Isipingo Primary School on Monday, as South Africa awaited the government’s announcement on university fees for next year. Its decision raised fears of another student backlash, but the disruption of the day came instead from primary pupils on their own, internal issues.

How is it, at the carefree age of cartoons and play, that children took part in a concerted action, ostensibly against refunds for functions that had not materialised? It was most disturbing, and the sight of 12 armed police officers in the school yard was jarring.

Children are impressionable, and might have taken their cue from their televised seniors at university, or annual celebrations of the Class of ’76. But the orchestration of it suggested otherwise, and a politicisation beyond their years.

The school has a record of strife between some teachers and the headmaster. This the Education Department should be pursuing, to establish whether children are being abused in the battle.

If they are, bold action is necessary. It would imply betrayal of the teachers’ legal obligation of being in charge of children in place of their parents (in loco parentis). Dismissals and transfers would be appropriate.

The meeting yesterday with parents should have deepened education officials’ understanding of the dynamics at the school. It is reasonable to assume that parents had quietly gleaned from their children what inspired the boycott, and that they, in turn, would relay this intelligence yesterday direct to those saddled with this problem.

Pupils cannot be dragged into staffroom politics and the mischief of boycotts. If it turns out to be the case, it must stop at Isipingo Primary.