Emotions ran high in Zebediela, Limpopo, on Thursday when a high-level provincial government delegation tried to resolve an ongoing protest by residents, which has led to almost 3 000 pupils missing school for four months.
In March, residents decided to shut down nine schools, several preschools, crèches and businesses to press for their demands for a tarred road in the area.
Three MECs - Dickson Masemola of transport and community safety, Polly Boshielo of education and Dr Onnica Mochadi of public works, roads and infrastructure - visited the area in an attempt to resolve the matter.
The delegation first met with the local chief Sello Kekana III and other stakeholders at the tribal office in Moletlane village.
Community leaders, however, were not happy with attempts by the delegation to resolve the matter at the tribal office.
One of them, Joel Kgole, said residents had gathered at the sports ground in another village, Madisha Ditoro, waiting to be addressed by the delegation.
The gathered residents have rejected a plea to allow pupils to return to class to attend catch-up programmes during the June holidays. They also rejected a suggestion that community leaders meet with Mochadi to resolve other issues.
Residents demanded that 28 people, who were arrested in connection with the protest, be released before pupils could return to class.
Addressing the media after the tense meeting, Boshielo made it clear that the education authorities were ready to implement catch-up programmes immediately if the impasse over the tarred road and the release of those arrested was resolved.
"As soon as they resolve it, we are ready," she said. "We can start with extra lessons tomorrow and provide social workers and psychologists to work with the kids so that they are able to learn again."
Masemola said Mochadi would convene a meeting with officials of the local municipality, traditional council and other government entities to determine a plan to resolve the situation.
"They will then make an announcement on whether the road [being demanded] will start this financial year or not,"
He earlier denied that the government had failed to intervene quickly enough because the focus had been on winning the general election on May 8.
"We know very well the consequences of learners not being in the classroom for a day or two. The learners of Zebediela have already become the victims of that circumstances," Masemola said.