A screengrab of the video. Picture: Facebook
Durban - WITH weeks before the start of matric exams, a secondary school in Umzinto, south of Durban, had to be closed last week after pupils went on strike.

One of the demands pupils are making is that they be allowed to smoke at designated areas before school begins.

In a video recorded by pupils, they demand a smoke break from 8am to 9am. In another video, a pupil walks through the staff room smoking a cigarette.

Kwazi Mthethwa, KZN Department of Education spokesperson, said smoking was not allowed in schools.

“We will not tolerate such ill-discipline in our schools. Our focus is on learning and to focus on finishing the school syllabus.”

Watch: Pupils demand a smoke break. Video: Facebook

Vee Gani of the KZN Parents Association said the pupils’ demands were illegal and unacceptable. “Smoking under the age of 18 is illegal.”

The teaching staff are mainly Indian, while the pupils are mostly black. Some pupils have accused their teachers of being racist. Also, staff seem divided over the recent appointment of acting principal George Khumalo.

Last week, the protest saw the school shut down and pupils could not write two exam papers or undergo moderations.

On Sunday, parents were invited to a meeting to discuss the matter. It was chaired by Krishna Reddy, Department of Education manager of the district.

One pupil told the meeting they were referred to as “dom” and “stupid” if they did not understand their work.

He claimed some teachers told them they needed to be transferred to a special needs school.

Another pupil claimed teachers were using pupils to get rid of Khumalo so he could be replaced with an Indian principal.

Reddy told parents the allegations would be investigated.

Niven Pillay, the SGB chairperson, said they were concerned about the action taken by pupils on issues that they believed could be resolved via discussions with relevant stakeholders.

Speaking about the video, he said: “A list of concerns were brought forward by representatives of the student body. I can confirm the demands made on social media did not form part of that list. In short, these demands should not be taken seriously.

“The list of demands, presented to the department, are being investigated and are given priority.”

He said Sunday’s meeting was well attended and a resolution, that teaching and learning would resume on Monday, was taken.

“Although school did open and attendance was relatively good, I am concerned that learners’ emotions might (be) unpredictable, as the investigation is still being conducted.

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