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Media Release

21 October, 2002

Stone-throwing: WCED closes school temporarily

Statement by André Gaum, Western Cape Education Minister

The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) closed Qhayiya Secondary School in Hermanus temporarily on Friday, 18 October 2002, following three days of tension and serious incidents of stone-throwing at the school.

A group of learners is unhappy with the presence of a senior educator, who returned to the school on 8 October after a three-month period of suspension following a disciplinary hearing.

The WCED’s local Education Management and Development Centre (EMDC) appointed a non-governmental organisation to facilitate the return by organising discussions on human rights and values.

Nevertheless, a group of about 23 learners disrupted tuition on Tuesday, 15 October, and vandalised the premises.

Some members of the group burnt continuous assessment results and some learners’ work portfolios in two classrooms, and damaged furniture.

Some threw stones through the windows of the staff room and the principal’s office. Members of the group threatened teachers and threw various objects at the principal.

The school governing body met that evening and decided unanimously to suspend the perpetrators until disciplinary hearings could be held. The school scheduled the hearings for 4 – 7 November. The school suspended the learners because they were considered a threat to the safety of other learners and staff.

The governing body also asked the South African Police Services to assist by ensuring that no learner entered the school grounds on Wednesday, 16 October, carrying dangerous weapons.

One of the suspended learners arrived and refused to leave. He became aggressive, and the incident prompted learners outside the school to begin stoning the police and vehicles in the school grounds.

The police fired rubber bullets to disperse the stone-throwers, and arrested two of the learners. The WCED has since appointed a security company to bolster security at the school.

More than 200 parents attended a parents’ meeting at the school on the evening of Thursday, 17 October, with members of the governing body, staff and WCED officials.

The meeting was adjourned when a number of young people threw stones at the school building. The parents tried to leave, but returned because of the stone throwing. The police were called.

The stone-throwers seriously damaged government and private cars in the grounds of the school. They dispersed when the police arrived. WCED officials and owners of the vehicles have laid charges for the damage caused to state and private property.

Following these incidents, the WCED, the governing body and the school management decided to close the school on Friday, 18 October, to allow time for tensions to ease. Staff reported to other schools in the area in the interim.

Matriculants registered for the Senior Certificate examinations in Accounting wrote at the local community hall on Friday.

The school will reregister all learners today (Monday, 21 October 2002), and teaching and learning will resume on Tuesday, 22 October 2002. A condition of registration is that learners obey school rules.

The behaviour of the minority learners involved in these incidents of violence and intimidation is completely unacceptable.

The senior educator they object to is fully entitled to return to his post after serving the sanction imposed by our disciplinary process. We have no legal grounds for denying him this right.

The learners involved in these incidents have absolutely no right to make their point in this way. The law will take its course where they have engaged in criminal behaviour.

In the meantime, we will continue to implement whatever steps are necessary to ensure the smooth running of the school and of the Senior Certificate examinations currently underway at Qhayiya.

Media inquiries:
Ruhan Robbertze
Cell: 082 577 6551
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