Port Elizabeth – On Tuesday morning government officials, principals and MECs in the Eastern Cape met to discuss the future of 23 schools which were closed due to a teacher shortage this week.
There are now urgent plans to bring in teachers from across the country after it has become clear that Biology, Maths and Science teachers who are able to work at Afrikaans-medium schools “simply do not exist in the system”, said the local education department.
Police continued to be deployed on Tuesday with sporadic incidents of violence being reported.
Police spokeswoman Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg said that the Northern Areas had been quiet for most of the morning until shortly after 10am.
“Complaints then came in. Some obstacles were placed in roads and some items were set alight, but the situation is under control,” she said.
She said that police had also received reports of two private vehicles being damaged.
On Monday, areas including Gelvandale and Bethelsdorp were ablaze over the closures. Outraged residents blocked roads with burning barricades, forcing the deployment of public order policing and tactical response teams to control the situation.
Photos and videos uploaded on to social media showed some protesters making petrol bombs. Others displayed spent bullet casings, claiming live ammunition had been fired into the crowd by police.
But police spokeswoman Brigadier Miranda Mills said: “We did not fire any live ammunition. Shots (of live ammunition) were fired at the police.”
In West End, a group of people allegedly attempted to loot a shop but were dispersed by police. Two people, aged 19 and 21, were arrested and charged with public violence. After the protests, a tense calm settled over the area as officials assessed the damage. According to Mills, six police vehicles and a resident’s car were damaged during the riots.
Three people reported that they were injured.
Loyiso Pulumani, spokesman for Eastern Cape Education MEC Mandla Makupula, said the focus was to get children back into classrooms as soon as possible.
The MEC was among those, including school governing bodies, who met with principals from Port Elizabeth’s northern areas on Tuesday morning.
Pulumani said “hopefully” they could identify vacancies at each school and begin finding teachers to fill the positions.
However, in the case of the Afrikaans-medium schools, he said it would be difficult to recruit educators to teach subjects such as Biology and Physical Sciences.
“That is where the major challenge lies. These teachers simply don’t exist in the system.”
The department has asked for assistance from Pretoria in a bid to bring in suitable teachers from other parts of the country.
Pulumani said the department would advertise all vacant posts in the affected schools.
“We hope all affected stakeholders will heed our efforts of making sure that … learning return to normality in the area.”
DA leader in the Eastern Cape Athol Trollip said on Monday: “The fact is that schools in the northern areas of Port Elizabeth have been notoriously neglected, and parents cannot tolerate this affront to their children any longer.
“These schools are dangerous places, where gangsters and criminals prey on children because school safety is utterly ignored.
“The Nelson Mandela Bay metro police continue to be nothing more than a pipe-dream, while its so-called commanding officer draws a huge salary without a single officer on the beat.”
Trollip also said that the party “condemns acts of violence by police and criminal elements who exploited” the protests.