by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – SOUTH African students, already facing an uncertain future as a result of the lockdown against the coronavirus (COVID-19), face the prospects of returning to derelict schools whenever the new term starts.
This is a result of local communities’ tendency to shoot themselves in the foot.
This propensity to destroy public infrastructure at times of crisis, then staging violent protests demanding the same facilities they destroyed, is a familiar vicious cycle.
It is lately manifesting itself in the rampant attacks on schools since the outbreak of the virus nationwide.
As the government has been channeling its energy to flattening the curve of the COVID-19, criminals, mostly known to communities, have perpetrated a spate of vandalism, burglary and destruction of schools.
More than 400 incidents have been recorded, including the torching of schools, theft of learning as well as teaching equipment, including Information Communication Technology (ICT) equipment.
Nutrition centres for food items have not been spared.
“Provincial Education Departments have reported an alarming number of schools that have been vandalised,” Angie Motshekga, the Basic Education Minister, lamented.
All the country’s nine provinces have recorded incidents, much to the chagrin of government.
“It is really unfortunate that criminals in our communities could destroy the infrastructure of their own children,” the minister said.
She said the destruction would hinder government efforts to recover time lost during the lengthy period pupils spent at home during the lockdown.
Schools officially closed on March 18, two days earlier than scheduled because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
They were scheduled to reopen on the 30th of that month but it is uncertain when they will resume as South Africa battles the pandemic.
“The damage caused due to the torching and theft in the schools will have a negative impact on the implementation of the recovery plan once the lockdown is lifted,” Motshekga warned.
President Cyril Ramaphosa also lambasted as a great indictment of South Africa society that schools had been burgled, trashed or burnt to the ground.
“When the lockdown is lifted and learning resumes, thousands of our children will have no school to return to, depriving them of the right to education,” the president said.
“That public property is being vandalised while the entire country is experiencing hardship because of the lockdown, is a demonstration of utter disrespect and disregard for the majority of South Africans who are law-abiding,” Ramaphosa added.
At the time of publication, police had arrested an unspecified number of suspects in connection with the criminalities at schools.
More than 40 suspects had been arrested in Gauteng, the epicentre of the thuggery.
The ongoing burglary of schools and the lockdown presents arguably the worst crisis to hit South Africa in over four decades.
Schooling came to a standstill in 1976 following an uprising by youths, a development that brought the evil apartheid system to the global spotlight and heralded the beginning of its end.
An education expert said students scheduled to sit for their final year examinations would be the most affected by the uncertainty and turmoil characterising the school year.
“For the majority or learners, Matric is the most challenging year of their school careers – even under normal circumstances,” said Wonga Ntshinga, Senior Head of Programme: Faculty of Information and Communication Technology at the Independent Institute of Education.
It is South Africa’s largest and most accredited private higher education institution.
“The current circumstances facing the Class of 2020 are unprecedented and have caused massive upheaval and uncertainty on top of the challenges they would ordinarily have faced,” Ntshinga said.
The school year is scheduled to end on December 2.
– CAJ News