Fifty KZN schools damaged during unrest, concern for teachers and pupils
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DURBAN - THE number of schools damaged across KwaZulu-Natal during the violent looting spree that engulfed the province has climbed to 50.
Last week, The Mercury reported that about 30 schools had been damaged during the violence.
Department of Education spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said about 50 schools had been damaged, as well as two educational centres and two circuit offices. Some of the damaged classrooms might not be ready for pupils by next Monday.
“Obviously there are schools that are adversely affected, that will require us to provide mobile classrooms, which will be very difficult given the budget,” said Mahlambi.
Last week, parts of KZN resembled a war-zone as looters targeted malls and other businesses and later torched them.
Schools were not spared. Some were burned and food from school-feeding schemes was stolen.
Stakeholders in the education field have also expressed concerns about the impact the violence might have on the psyche of the teachers and pupils who are scheduled to return to schools next week.
Mahlambi said ensuring that the pupils and teachers were safe was one of their priorities.
“We are equally worried about the safety of our employees. There is a high-level engagement regarding this matter with law-enforcement agencies.”
Joan van Niekerk, an independent child advocacy expert, said parents needed to prepare children for returning to school.
She said many children were “victims” of the looting and the violence, and some were part of the violence.
“It will be traumatic for many when they return to the schools to find that their schools had been damaged.
“It is important for parents to prepare their children and to speak honestly about what happened and educate their children that what happened was not okay. This is important because if we do not, we reinforce the values that we want to end.
“We sometimes forget to teach our children about empathy, teach them to care about the rights of others, we should speak to them about how they will feel if someone damaged something that belonged to them,” she said.
Vee Gani of the KZN Parents Association said this week was going to be crucial in determining whether pupils had a safe return to school.
He said if no other incidents happened, pupils might be confident about returning to class, but he expressed concerns that he feared that “this (violence) is not over”.
Some teacher unions said they were concerned that teachers were traumatised and some were not mentally ready to go back to schools.
Thirona Moodley, the chief executive of National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) in KZN, said schools must reopen as soon as possible.
“At this point, returning to school is furthest from the minds of anyone as they are picking up the pieces of the worst unrest in recent times.
“Teachers have been busy securing their homes and protecting their families.
“Educators in schools that have had their schools vandalised and looted will have to pick up the pieces there, too.
“They are already feeling stress and anxiety at home, and now their places of work will also be a constant reminder of the week that passed,” she said.
National Teachers Union general secretary Cynthia Barnes said teachers, like everyone, were traumatised.
“We are fearful. No one is happy about what transpired. Teachers do not know whether this is over or if it could start up again. After what happened we were fearful of shadows. If children are playing with firecrackers we jump, thinking it’s a gun.
“There are also those people who like to threaten others using voice notes. If teachers get voice notes saying they should not go to school because they will be attacked, whether this is fake or not, teachers are unlikely to want to go to work on that day.”
SA Democratic Teachers Union provincial secretary Nomarashiya Caluza said the teachers had been affected like all other communities that had witnessed the looting.
“They could be affected more in the schools that were burned as they have to start that work over again.”