Dozens of schoolchildren walked around aimlessly in Masakoma and Mashau villages on Thursday morning, contemplating their future after 22 schools and their records were reduced to ash.
Two more schools went up in flames during violent protests in Limpopo’s Vhembe district on Wednesday night, bringing to 22 the number of schools torched.
Protesters have also torched a post office, a tribal office and several vehicles.
The burning of schools started on Sunday night after a community meeting where a high court decision to dismiss their challenge to review the Municipal Demarcation Board’s decision to incorporate their villages into the new Malamulele Municipality was discussed.
Vuwani residents, along with residents from surrounding villages, launched a high court bid following an announcement by the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) in 2014 that one municipality in Limpopo’s Vhembe district would be demarcated to fall under the Malamulele Municipality.
In court papers, the Vuwani task team argued that the MDB invitation to public hearings deceived them into believing that they were not affected by consultations as it thought submissions for the de-establishment of Mutale Municipality did not affect them.
But the MDB counsel pleaded to the court that the Vuwani application had implications to delay elections and asked that their application should be dismissed. They said Vuwani would have a chance to make fresh applications in 2020.
On Thursday roads were barricaded with tree branches and debris, while passing cars and riot police were pelted with stones.
People trying to get to work were also left stranded as bus and taxi operators feared the wrath of protesters, while shops were closed as owners feared their businesses would be torched.
With just two weeks before pupils sit for mid-term exams, a task team made up of education officials and Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha were to meet on Thursday to try to find a solution.
“We are concerned because school records have been destroyed and it’ll be very difficult for us to reconstruct all the records.
“We track all learners’ records and record them somewhere. It is not easy to reconstruct, especially if it was not computerised.
“Not all the schools have a computerised system.
“Even when there’s a computer you don’t process everything in a computer, you’d have documents as well... so everything, including financial records, was destroyed,” said Basic Education spokesman Elijar Mhlanga.
It could cost up to R30 million “to reconstruct every school from scratch”, he said. But the department does not “have a standing budget for situations like this one”.
“It means we’ll have to steal from someone to fix this. There’s no plan yet,” he said. But not all schools were completely destroyed.
Vuwani police spokesman Elaijah Malatji said four classrooms were burnt at Munwai Primary School and a staff room was gutted at Tshinavhe Secondary. Mhlanga said it was impossible to assess the damage at the moment as the situation was still hostile.
“Remember, if you want to go into that area residents don’t allow it. A team of MECs are meeting community members at 10am. Once the meeting is over we’ll be able to update,” he said.
One pupil from Mashau village, Livhuwani Makhado, said she didn’t know how they would proceed with their education. “Our school was burnt, we saw the flames, it hurts because we want to be educated, they should not prevent us from getting education,” she said.
Ash-covered desks, collapsed roofs and broken windows were all that remained in some schools.
Malatji said no arrests had been made following the arson attacks.