Cape Town - Criminal charges were laid against protesters in Grabouw on Tuesday following the closure of five schools in the area because of protests, Western Cape education MEC Debbie Schäfer said.
“I would like to strongly condemn the violent action in the Grabouw area that has led to (a) concerning disruption in our schools,” she said in a statement.
“As a result of this action, five schools within Grabouw have been officially closed.”
The schools included Kathleen Murray Primary School, Pineview Primary School, Groenberg High School, Umyezo Wama Apile High School, and Umyezo Wama Apile Primary School.
Other schools reporting low attendance included Grabouw High School, De Rust Future Academy, and Swartberg Secondary, with over 6000 pupils affected by the protests.
Schäfer laid charges in terms of the SA Schools Act against all those reportedly involved in the protests.
“I trust that SA Police Service will act swiftly and decisively to restore order in the community so that teaching and learning can resume as soon as possible,” Schäfer said.
“While we condemn any disruption to schooling at any time during the school year, the disruption of schooling at this critical time of the year is even more concerning.”
Primary school pupils were currently writing their annual national assessments, and high school pupils were writing their September examinations.
“Grade 12 learners are writing their September 'mock examinations' which are an important assessment tool for both educators and candidates ahead of the National Senior Certificate examinations,” the MEC said.
“Western Cape education department district officials are working with school management of all the affected schools to ensure that examinations and assessments are rescheduled.”
The department's priority was to ensure the safety of all pupils and teachers.
“It is high time that people destroying the opportunities of others are held accountable,” Schäfer said.
Additionally, statements made by the likes of the Grabouw Civic Organisation and their leadership were irresponsible and undermined pupils' constitutional right to an education.
Earlier on Tuesday, Western Cape police said police used rubber bullets and teargas to disperse protesters throwing stones on the N2 between Pineview North and The Orchards in Grabouw.
A running battle ensued for an hour as police continuously fired rubber bullets and teargas at the crowd.
The protesters fled and gathered again on Felix Road near the Umyezo Wama Apile Primary School.
Police rushed to Felix Road to disperse them again.
A platoon of about 12 officers of the public order policing unit formed a line at a barrier next to the N2 to allow the SA National Roads Agency Limited team to clear the highway of debris of rocks and burning tyres from earlier in the morning.