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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Mob attacks matric pupils

By Sinegugu Ndlovu & Wendy Jasson da Costa

A teenager is nursing a broken collar bone after a mob wearing Cosatu T-shirts beat up matric pupils in Scottburgh with knobkieries

Scottburgh High School had closed last Thursday because of the intimidation accompanying the nationwide public servants' strike. On Wednesday, 107 pupils and four teachers were studying at the local country club when a gang invaded the property, demanding to know what the pupils were doing.

Pupil Johan Naude saw two fellow matrics brutally attacked.

"They grabbed two girls by the hair, threw them on the floor and started kicking them. I saw one of the girls hit on the head with a knobkierie and I was also hit when I tried to help them," he said.

School governing body spokesman Henry Mulcahy said the attackers were part of a larger group of workers who had been picketing at GJ Crookes Hospital. They were apparently tipped off that pupils were studying at the country club and attacked.

Mulcahy said while pupils in lower grades remained at home - with tasks to ensure they did not fall behind the academic schedule - it was decided on Thursday that matrics would resume classes at the country club for safety reasons.

A spokesman for the country club said the attackers came rushing across the field, shouting: "What are the kids doing here?"

"We closed the doors. They went around the property and started pulling the front door off its hinges and beat the kids up. We were all terrified."

Police Lieutenant-Colonel Zandra Wiid said five pupils had opened public violence cases.

Cosatu leader Zet Luzipho distanced the organisation from the incident and advised the victims to report the matter to the police.

"Anyone can wear a Cosatu T-shirt. If anyone feels their rights have been violated, they have a right to recourse," he said.

Despite attacks on pupils, the provincial Education Department on Wednesday urged all matrics to "be in class, studying during this period".

Spokeswoman Mbali Thusi said they were concerned about the year-end results as matrics had not performed well in the first and second quarters. She called on school governing bodies and parents to help monitor pupils and keep order at schools.

In the meantime, the ANC-aligned Congress of SA Students (Cosas) called for matric exams to be delayed because of the strike.

In 2008, KZN achieved a 57.8 percent matric pass rate, and 61.1 percent last year.

Renuka Vithal, deputy vice-chancellor of teaching at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said it was unlikely that the statistics would improve, given the long June holiday to accommodate the World Cup and now the indefinite strike.

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