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JOHANNESBURG - A case of arson has been opened after a fire damaged parts of Duvha Combined School in EMalahleni, Mpumalanga, in the early hours of Tuesday, less than a week after two learners were expelled from the school for assaulting another learner, the education department said.

The provincial department’s spokesperson Jasper Zwane said the storeroom caught fire, which spread and damaged the office of the principal and a number of other offices.

“We do not link the burning of the school with the expulsion of the learners, but we also cannot not rule out that possibility,” Zwane said.

However, provincial police spokesperson Colonel Mtsholi Bhembe said that the police had found a container for an inflammable substance at the scene.

He said the police suspected the substance was used to set the fire. 

“It is alleged that some community members saw the school on fire at 3.30am and called the firefighters, who responded and managed to extinguish the fire. A case of arson has been opened and no arrests have been made,” Bhembe said.

“It is a disturbing coincidence. The department is, however, encouraged that this development did not affect the ongoing March internal examinations at the school.”

Zwane announced the expulsion of the two Grade 9 learners on Monday. He said the learners, both aged 15, were expelled after an internal disciplinary hearing for badly assaulting another Grade 9 learner last month. He did not reveal further details about the assault.

“The learners pleaded guilty in the hearing. Because these learners fall within the compulsory attendance age, the circuit manager has been tasked to enrol them in another school and to closely monitor their conduct,” Zwane said.

The department said that the decision to expel the duo would send a clear message that bullying would not be tolerated in schools, Zwane said.

African News Agency (ANA)