Defiant Malamulele pupils learn in secret
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Limpopo - Some pupils in troubled Malamulele refuse to sit idle and watch their futures go down the drain.
Thousands of pupils in Limpopo’s ghost town were made to miss lessons since schools reopened last month.
Residents have imposed a four-week lockdown in the small town in their pursuit to have their own municipality.
They want Malamulele township and nearby villages to be separated from the Thohoyandou-based Thulamela Local Municipality, which they have accused of favouring areas with Venda-speaking people when delivering services. Malamulele consists mainly of Tsonga-speaking people.
While most pupils unwillingly obeyed orders to boycott schools, some refused to put away their books.
A group of secondary school pupils clandestinely meet at a secret place to study maths.
A 15-year-old Grade 10 pupil at EPP Mhinga Secondary School said they received regular lessons from a volunteer. She requested that her name and that of the tutor not be mentioned.
“Please don’t mention the place where we meet because they (residents) don’t want us to learn,” she pleaded.
Rhulani Nwayila, 19, a Grade 12 pupil at Hlaluko Secondary School in the neighbouring Gandlanani village, is equally frustrated.
While he supports the idea of a separate municipality, he wishes pupils would be allowed to go to school.
“I don’t support the shutdown. Other children elsewhere are learning and we are not. At the end of the year we will all get the same question paper,” said Rhulani.
Pleas by Police Minister Nathi Nhleko and State Security Minister David Mahlobo for residents to allow children to return to school have fallen on deaf ears.
On Wednesday, the two were locked in a meeting with residents and representatives of the Malamulele task team.
Its deputy secretary, Isaac Nokeri, said the shutdown and schools boycott would continue until further notice.
However, Nhleko said a “framework of engagement” between the government and residents had been set up to help resolve the impasse.
The lockdown has resulted in large retail stores at Mala Plaza, filling stations and government offices being closed.
Vendors’ stalls that line the only main street in town are vacant.
Residents have boycotted work. But those who work in the hospital and police station, which are deemed essential service providers, are allowed to report for duty.
However, patients from other villages continue to bear the brunt of the boycott.
Sophie Nkwinika, 57, said she limped for 7km from Mahonisi to Malamulele Hospital to have her foot treated.
She was forced to walk because taxis in the area are not operating.
“I don’t see anything wrong with the shutdown because we don’t have roads and bridges in the villages,” she said.
The town is almost deserted. Only ambulances, marked police vehicles and a handful of private cars that police allow to enter were seen driving around. Dozens of armed police officers are keeping a visible presence.
Administration blocks at three schools were torched this week. on Wednesday, smoke billowed from the burnt building of Malamulele High School, two days after arsonists had set it on fire.
No one has been arrested for arson.