News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Thursday June 20th 2019

Protesting learners arrested

Learners from DR NR Mandela High in Nyanga have been protesting for four days over their principal's demand that they pay toward their textbooks. Nine people have been injured by rocks thrown at vehicles on adjacent Lansdowne Road and three pupils were arrested on Monday. Photo: Sandiso Phaliso/WCN

Following three days of occasionally violent protest by learners at Dr NR Mandela High over textbook fees, three pupils were arrested on Monday on charges related to public violence.

However, the arrests did not deter pupils at the school from embarking on a fourth day of protest yesterday.

On Friday last week, and on Monday, some of the approximately 1 000 protesting pupils threw rocks at vehicles passing by onLansdowne Road.

On Friday eight Golden Arrow staff members were injured when a staff bus they were traveling in was struck by rocks. A pupil was also injured when hit by a rock on Friday.

The protest was sparked by the principal Linda Mnothoza’s stipulation that each pupil had to pay R200 which would be split between textbook costs and fundraising. Although the request was made last year, this year he started preventing pupils who had not paid over the money from attending school.

Confirming Monday’s arrests, police spokesperson Frederick van Wyk said three learners had been arrested on charges of public violence.

Van Wyk said they were allegedly part of a group of pupils that blocked part of Lansdowne Road and threw stones at passing vehicles, forcing motorists to use alternative routes to get to their destination.

He said pupils had also thrown stones at the police when the police tried to calm the situation.

The protest, which all the pupils at the school had joined, was sparked by the principal enforcing an order that pupils needed to pay R100 for textbooks and R100 for fundraising, said Learner Representative Council (LRC) member Lwando Njovane.

Njovane said pupils had been trying to engage the principal on the matter since schoolsreopened in January, but had no success.
He said the principal was dictatorial and also encouraged teachers to use corporal punishment. Njovane said they want Mnothoza to be suspended and investigated by the Western Cape Education Department.

Following the arrest of three pupils, the South African Democratic Teacher’s Union has got involved.

Sadtu Regional chairperson Vusumzi Ntlahla said after seeing that the protest was ongoing and no solution was forthcoming, the union decided to intervene.

Ntlahla said Mnothoza had admitted that forcing learners to pay the requested R200 by preventing those who had not paid from attending school was illegal.

“The School Governing Body (SGB) will meet this week with another strategy of getting the full co-operation from parents,” said Ntlahla.

He said pupils who had been prevented from attending school must be allowed back into class and if they could not afford the stipulated contribution, needed to make an arrangement with Mnothoza.

Education department spokesperson Bronagh Casey said the department was investigating claims by learners against Mnothoza. “We are following due processes in this regards,” said Casey.

She dismissed claims that Mnothoza has been suspended.  “We have to follow due processes before we suspend a principal.  Our investigation will find out whether there are grounds for suspension,” she said. – Sandiso Phaliso

Tags: Bronagh Casey, Dr NR Mandela High, Frederick Van Wyk, Learner Representative Council, Linda Mnothoza, Lwando Njovane, South African Democratic Teacher’s Union, Vusumzi Ntlahla

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