RUSTENBURG - Learning and teaching was halted for the second day at Boitekong Secondary School in Rustenburg on Tuesday, as clashes between Xhosa and Batswana groups continued.
Parents of Xhosa-speaking pupils from Bokamoso stormed the school, wielding sticks and iron rods, complaining that Batswana were attacking their children at the school.
According to one of the parents, her son was allegedly attacked on Friday when he asked another boy to give him back his cellphone. The Tswana boy had allegedly stolen the cellphone.
"The [Tswana] boy took a panga out of his school bag instead of a cellphone and he was attacked. He bled through the mouth and fainted at the clinic," she said of the alleged attack on her son.
On Monday, another Xhosa boy from Sondela was allegedly beaten up by a group of Batswana who had blocked his way home. He slept over in Bokamoso.
Batswana and Xhosa boys also allegedly clashed at a stream where Batswana had intercepted Xhosas on their home to Bokamoso.
On Tuesday, parents of Xhosa pupils from Bokamoso went to the school in a bid to protect their children.
They demanded that Basic Education Minister Angie Matshekga come to address them and they also wanted their own school in Bokamoso. In the interim, they wanted to be provided with mobile classrooms.
The community of Bokamoso have vowed not to vote on May 8 unless their demand for a separate school is met. According to them, it was a mistake to introduce isiXhosa at Boitekong Secondary.
"Minister Motshekga must come to address this issue before May 8, we are not going to vote with this issued not solved. No school, no vote," said another parent Bukelwa Dwenga.
However, ward councillor Elish Mjekula said the conflict started as gangsterism in the community and entered the school terrain where gangs targeted pupils in grades 10, 11 and 12.
"We had a meeting yesterday [Monday] where we tried to solve this problem. In the meeting we agreed that each pupil from Bokamoso will come with a parent to school for a meeting, and each pupil from Boitekong will also bring a parent.
"We were surprised to see parents from Bokamoso arriving at the school armed. The meeting was to start at 9am and they arrived 15 minutes later and learning and teaching was disrupted," she said.
Another councillor, Abissai Seleka, said the root problem was not ethnic but gansterism and drugs.
"We appeal to the department of education to provide the school with security officers and to erect a wall around the school to ensure that everyone passes through the gate and is searched."
The notorious SVK, HL and Rough 4 are known gangs operating in Boitekong. Locals said one particular boy wanted to control the gangs at the school and he reportedly bullied Xhosa boys who are in minority.
In return, the Xhosa grouping got together to protect themselves and this resulted in the clashes between the two ethnic groups.
According to pupils, the boy was involved in a fight with Xhosa boys after which he was expelled from school. The Xhosa boys were not expelled.
"His gang members at school felt it was not fair for him to leave and the ten boys that fight with him remain in school. This tension has been simmering since February," said one learner.
The North West department of education said it discourages ethnicity in schools.
"We are one South Africa, we do not expect that people will be fighting on the basis of ethnicity, we are pleading with them to refrain from doing that," a spokesperson said.
A high level meeting was underway at the school in a bid to defuse the situation. The meeting was attended by representatives from Bokamoso (Xhosa), Boitekong (Batswana), the police, and the Rustenburg local municipality.
Police were monitoring the tense situation as the meeting progressed.
Another meeting is scheduled for Wednesday where North West Education MEC Sello Lehari is expected to addressed both grouping of parents in a single meeting.
African News Agency (ANA)