Johannesburg - Tension in Ennerdale, south of Joburg, degenerated into a violent protest that left four learners with rubber bullet wounds and a classroom burnt to the ground on Monday.
The residents have said that if Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi had kept his promises, the local high school classroom would not have been set alight.
They refused to take responsibility for the fire at Oakdale Secondary School and blamed it on druglords and criminals who have invaded the premises.
The residents’ demonstration and demand for better school infrastructure ended up in a violent clash with the police.
Five people, including a local councillor, were arrested.
The school has more than 30 mobile classes - most of which have broken windows - crammed in the yard. The school block made of brick and mortar is not used anymore after the roof was blown away by a storm in September.
The boys’ urinals are in such bad state that they have black refuse bags to catch the water that would otherwise leak onto the floors. There are also gaping holes in the toilet ceiling.
Ragmat Bantom said it was untrue that residents had torched the school.
“Panyaza is talking bulls*** on Twitter saying the children are burning the infrastructure. It is not them, it is the guys who are occupying the place - druglords.”
Bantom and her daughter were shot with rubber bullets during the protest. The Grade 12 learner, who was shot on her lower back, said: “They (police) were hitting our parents, shoving them around and hitting them with tear gas. We were not armed and we are still unarmed. All we want is resources that will enable us to build bright futures. The very people who should be protecting us are the ones that are violating our rights,” she said.
Four learners and two parents were admitted to hospital after being shot by the police.
The SGB spokesperson Wendy Mntambo said they supported the aggrieved learners and parents because those were issues they had been dealing with for more than 10 years.
“Ask yourself this question. 'Would you send your child to a school like this?' Panyaza must not send anyone here, he needs to come himself,” she said.
According to Mntambo there were 13 mobile classes to cater for 720 learners.
Education spokesperson Steve Mabona denounced the violence and said there were already plans to rehabilitate the school.
"Departmental inspectors assessed the storm damage and discovered that the school needs major rehabilitation, and as such it was included in the estimate of capital expenditure," he said.
Mabona added that the department was finalising the process of appointing a service provider to begin work.
South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) Gauteng Provincial Manager, Buang Jones said an investigation would be established to determine whether the use of force by the police was disproportionate or not.
“The commission has in the past recommended that the police, in dealing with protests, should use proportionate force where necessary and should avoid instances where injuries can be sustained,” he said.
Representatives of the commission were at the protest to monitor the situation and Jones said the commission was concerned about the injuries sustained.
He added that the commission would liaise with the Department of Education and the School Governing Body for investigations.
Additional reporting by Chulumanco Mahamba.