6 March 2012

South Africa: Protesting Learners Block Road and Stone Bus

Teaching came to a standstill at Dr. Nelson Mandela High school in Nyanga on Thursday and Friday due to the entire student body - comprising over 1 000 pupils - protesting over textbooks fees.

Learner's launched their protest after being told by the principal that each pupil would have to pay R100 toward textbooks.

The pupils also say the principal is dictatorial and encouraged teachers to use corporal punishment.

As a result of the protest, motorists using Lansdowne road had to use alternative routes as protesting learners blocked the road and threw stones at passing vehicles, including a Golden Arrow Bus that was damaged.

A pupil was also sent to hospital after being injured by a rock.

The Provincial Education Department said it is investigating the matter.

The core of the protest is the result of the school principal, Linda Mnothoza, collecting R100 from each learner to pay for their textbooks.

But, according to the learner's leadership, this decision by the principal to collect money was disputed and contested.

Golden Arrow Bus Services spokesperson Bronwen Dyke said "one of our staff busses was stoned, allegedly by learners from a high school".

"Eight staff members suffered minor injuries and 14 windows were damaged," said Dyke.

She said the company was working closely with the police to try to catch the perpetrators.

"If the education department is failing to resolve this matter to our advantage we will make this school ungovernable," said Mzonke Mpetsheni, a member of the school's Learner Representative Council (LRC).

He said since schools re-opened in January, the learner's leadership at the school had tried in vain to engage with the school principal Linda Mnothoza about the issue.

"She (Mnothoza) does not want to engage with us at a roundtable and we saw fit that we should take to the streets so that people may know what is happening at the school.

"Whenever we try to talk to her she is busy," said Mpetsheni.

Mpetsheni said it was likely the protest would continue on Monday if their demands were not met.

"We are a no-fee school and we are not expected to pay anything. The department was also surprised when they came to talk to us, when they heard we have to pay money to get textbooks. "What about learners who cannot afford the R100? Does that mean they would not get the textbooks?" asked Mpetsheni.

Another learner, Masibongwe Ngingi, 14, said he wanted his R100 back. "The textbooks are there for all of us learners and I fail to understand why we have to pay to get them," said Ngingi.

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