Teachers unions are appealing to the community of Vuwani for calmer heads to prevail as schools and books burn, leaving more than 26,000 students in limbo amid increasing violence in the country’s north-eastern region.
In response to the merging of two villages, residents of Vuwani in South Africa’s province of Limpopo, about 500 km north of Johannesburg, set fire to 23 schools and damaged four others to bring the area’s education system to a grinding halt.
“It is unthinkable, that whilst we are engaged in campaigns demanding building and improvement of schools, some other people decided to burn the few available schools which remained our hope of the development of our communities and society” read a statement from the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) Limpopo Province Secretariat. “We urge Vuwani community to use all other peaceful means to advance their community demands.”
Despite condemnation from South Africa’s President Zuma protesters are refusing to back down until the government reverses its decision.
Anthea Cereseto, the President of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA) said that “destroying the means to education and hope for a better future for a significant number of children is one of the most abhorrent acts possible.” She added that “violence and destruction are not solutions to problems – no matter how legitimate the cause.”
Both unions are calling on the Limpopo Department of Education to quickly act to ensure that further damage and disruptions to the school year are avoided.