Many provinces had a smooth start to the first day of the new academic year on Wednesday, but that was not the case for some pupils in Limpopo.
They were prevented from attending school by protesting community members.
By noon, the province’s education department could not estimate how many schools in Thitale had been affected.
According to reports, the children were barred from commencing their first day of schooling by protesters who demanded that the area’s roads be tarred.
Spokesperson Naledzani Rasila told The Citizen the department had learned about the protest through the media.
“We don’t yet have all the details about how many pupils were affected,” Rasila said.
“But we call on the protesters to rather approach the relevant departments and express their dissatisfactions with them, and not compromise the education of children.
“To have a community protest impacting negatively on pupils is concerning.”
But disrupting schooling has become something of a norm in Limpopo.
Last year, pupils from villages in and around Vuwani, outside Thohoyandou, were also forced to stay at home for about four months by protesters.
The protest action, described as a “total shutdown of services”, also resulted in other important community services, such as emergency and local businesses, being suspended.
Prior to last year’s local government elections, the area had been “extremely tense”, when about 30 schools were torched and local municipal buildings damaged.
Furious protesters were demanding that the Municipal Demarcation Board reverse its decision to merge their area with Malamulele and surrounding villages in a bid to form a new municipality.
Apart from Wednesday’s disruption, reports also emerged that there were schools that had not yet received their textbook inventory. But Rasila disputed this, saying it was stationery that had yet to be delivered.
Asked if textbooks had been delivered, Rasila responded: “All that we are busy delivering now, in terms of the textbooks, is what we call top-up books.
“Remember, pupils are expected to return the books they were using in the previous year, and some do, while others don’t. So, what we are currently doing is closing the gap.
“While we have not yet calculated the number of schools affected, we have delivered more than 1 500 of them [books], and in terms of percentages, we are now standing at 50% and will continue delivering.”
Rasila said she was “confident” all the pupils will have their full packages by month-end.