Port Elizabeth – Kids played with the burning remnants of tyres while others helped to spread smouldering rubbish across Highfield Road in Schauderville, Port Elizabeth, on Monday as protests against teacher shortages swept across the northern areas.
The protests apparently stemmed from a call by the Northern Areas Education Forum, which organised parents to shut down 33 schools in the area last week because of unhappiness with the way the provincial education department is dealing with teacher vacancies.
The forum’s grievances include teacher shortages, alleged misuse of budget allocations and a lack of non-teaching staff at schools.
However, what was meant to be a peaceful protest against under-resourced schools quickly escalated after protesters stoned the vehicles of passing motorists on Monday morning.
Sitting watching the children play with the smouldering rubbish in the street on Monday, a woman held a scarf to her face against the thick black smoke billowing from burning tyres.
“We have to do it. It’s for our children. If they [the education department] don’t sort out the schools then they [the children] will end up on the streets and before long they’ll be in jail,” she said.
Another woman, resting against a wall on the street corner, yelled at her child telling him to spread the rubbish further into the street as a bakkie drove past.
“Don’t let them drive through,” she told him as he started spreading the rubbish with a stick.
A teenager walked past and cautioned not to take photos.
“Don’t let them see your phone, they’ll take it from you here,” he said as he gestured to a group of men sitting on the railing between the lanes of Highfield Road.
“They don’t want people taking photographs,” he said, walking away hurriedly.