A baboon on the roof of the Kathu Primary School. Picture: Supplied
Kimberley - Around 1 800 pupils at Kathu Primary School were sent home on Tuesday after three large baboons threatened the safety of the children.

Northern Cape Department of Education spokesperson, Geoffrey van der Merwe, confirmed on Tuesday that the school was invaded by baboons.

“Unfortunately, we had to dismiss pupils and educators for their own safety,” he said.

Van der Merwe added that the Department of Environment and Nature Conservation was informed about the situation and was currently attending to the matter.

“We will be guided by their reports to determine the cause of the invasion.”

Van der Merwe said it was hoped that schooling would return to normal from Wednesday.

Spokesperson for the Department of Environment and Nature Conservation, Lesego Pule, said on Tuesday that they were informed of the presence of the baboons by a community member on Monday afternoon.

“We immediately dispatched officials to the school and when they arrived they found three large baboons on the premises. The officials tried to trap the baboons but the cages they had with them were too small.”

Pule said that officials travelled to Upington Tuesday morning to fetch larger cages.

“We have also obtained the services of a private vet, who has agreed to dart the baboons so that they can be captured and taken to the closest nature reserve where they will be released.

“We can assure the pupils at the school, as well as their parents and educators, that if the baboons are still on the premises or if they are spotted again, they will be darted and taken to a nearby reserve.”

Pule added that it was not certain at this stage whether the baboons were part of a bigger troop.

“We can only confirm that three baboons were spotted by officials on Monday and again yesterday at the school. However, if there are more in the area, they will also be captured and removed.”

Pule stated that while baboons were generally harmless, they could become extremely dangerous if provoked.

“If they are looking for food, they could also try to snatch food from a child and if the child runs away, they could chase him or her which could result in a dangerous situation. Mothers with young ones can also be very dangerous.”

The DA’s spokesperson for Environment and Nature Conservation, Ismail Obaray, said on Tuesday that two large baboons, who made their way into the school yard and onto the roof of the building, had threatened the safety of the 1 800 pupils who attend the school.

“This is not the first time that baboons have visited the school,” Obaray said. “During the school holidays, baboons were a regular sight at the institution. It is suspected that the baboons are coming from the old Dingleton community that has since been relocated.”

Obaray said that the provincial Environment and Education departments were contacted on Tuesday. “The DA is appealing to them to urgently find a way to resolve the problem so that schooling can resume. It cannot be that education is disrupted because of government’s inability to effectively and efficiently manage environmental threats such as this.”

Meanwhile, a fake message on social media, reporting that schools would only reopen on April 16 “to give the nation time to mourn” the death of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, appeared to have had little effect Tuesday.

According to Van der Merwe, schooling continued as normal on Tuesday without any major hiccups reported.

Diamond Fields Advertiser