Johannesburg - The dispute that has racked Roodepoort Primary School erupted into violence on Tuesday morning with police firing teargas and rubber bullets into a crowd gathered at the gates.
Five people, among them school children, had to be admitted to hospital after being hit during a tense stand-off between police and enraged parents who are opposed to the Gauteng Education Department’s decision to shut down the school.
Parents had allegedly been blocking buses assigned to ferry pupils to neighbouring schools from leaving when police opened fire to disperse them.
But some of those wounded have disputed this, with Ralton Ferrine
saying: “We did nothing to provoke the police, we didn’t even have weapons on us.”
Ferrine was hit by a rubber bullet in the head.
Also left “traumatised” was Ifraan Campbell who sustained injuries to his head and shoulder.
He told The Star that he was passing by the school west of Joburg on Tuesday morning to go to a nearby shop when police opened fire on the “defenceless” crowd.
After being stitched up, the young man, still drenched in blood, was adamant that the crowd had been peaceful when police started firing rubber bullets at them.
ER24 spokesman Russel Meiring said paramedics had arrived at the school to find members of the public on the scene as well as a heavy SAPS presence.
“On assessment, we found that at least five people had sustained minor to moderate injuries from what paramedics were told were rubber bullets, although it cannot be confirmed,” Meiring said.
He said patients were immediately removed to an area a distance away from the protests.
“Here they were treated for their injuries.
“The patients were then transported to nearby medical facilities for further treatment.”
Tensions at Roodepoort Primary School have been high recently with race issues being at the centre of clashes.
The school, which is in a predominantly coloured area, has been marred by allegations of racism and irregularities after the appointment of a black principal last year.
Last week, there was a physical altercation between parents and an official from the Education Department on the school grounds, in full view of the pupils.
A few months ago, police fired rubber bullets during a violent protest as parents demanded that a coloured principal be appointed to replace the current principal, Nomathemba Molefe.
In April, Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi closed down the school, but reopened it days later saying that there was a plan in place to ensure continued learning at the facility.
On Tuesday morning, a large group of disgruntled parents and community members took their plight to the streets and congregated outside the school.
Members of the Joburg Metro Police Department and the police opened fire with rubber bullets to disperse the crowd after violence erupted.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura and Lesufi had earlier ordered that the school be closed as no education was taking place, with parents constantly clashing with education officials, and teachers not reporting for duty as they feared for their lives.
Pupils and teachers have since been relocated to neighbouring schools including those in Soweto and Krugersdorp.
Despite alternative arrangements for pupils to be housed at other schools, some parents were not pleased with the development.
A parent who did want to be named said she would not send her child to another school as there was already a school in their neighbourhood.
“It’s unfair because we have a school nearby, why must they be sent to another school.”
Gauteng Police spokeswoman Captain Doniah Mothutsane confirmed that rubber bullets had been used to break up the violent protest after parents threw stones at buses and broke the school gates to gain access to the school’s premises.