Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Rioting students barricade roads, damage property

The aftershock of a historic wave of violent revolt by students which began last week, swept across other major villages and towns on Monday, leaving behind a trail of extensive property damage.

In Ramotswa, secondary schools recorded property destruction of varying scales in the morning of Monday with Kelemogile Junior Secondary being the hardest hit as the Minister of Education, and Skills Development, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi’s closure of all government schools countrywide came a little too late. Kelemogile School students, armed with an assortment of missiles, pelted and shattered almost all classroom windows and the staff room. The students caused extensive damage to the school kitchen before pilfering foodstuffs. The acting school head said it all happened spontaneously. The situation was helped by the intervention of the area Botswana Congress Party councillor who is also the sub district Education Chairperson, Molemi Rakgomo.

A similar violent situation at Kagiso Senior Secondary School was averted by the intervention of another BCP councilor, Tshekiso Sorinyane, who is the school PTA chairman who asked students to go home after they had held the school head hostage.

Kagiso Senior Secondary School Head, Lapologang Kolagano, had his hands full on Monday making sure boarding students travel home safely.  He said the students hurled a stone and broke his office window.

“I have a situation here. Please let me deal with this situation,” the school head said.
When The Telegraph visited Kelemogile Junior, students were found leaving the school, hours before the minister had ordered closure of schools. The violence and property destruction at the school was swift, according to teachers who spoke to The Telegraph.  

The acting school head at Kelemogile Junior Secondary, Khumo Mufahothe, said teachers were having a staff meeting when they were surprised by students pelting them with an assortment of missiles. It could have been worse. The situation was diffused by an area councilor who pleaded with the students to disperse and go home.

But what really saved the situation was the police, whom, fearful of a repeat of the riots that engulfed Molepolole, resisted the temptation to set foot at any of the schools.

“We do not want a repeat of Molepolole. We are avoiding confrontation with students. We will manage the situation,” acting Ramotswa police station commander, Assistant Superintendent Thito Freeman, had said earlier before unpredictable students from the four junior secondary schools in the area joined their seniors at Kagiso and began marching back and forth in the vicinity of striking civil servants and the police station.

Chanting “Re batla thuto (We demand education)┬á students┬á waved at striking civil servants┬á before barricading the road that links the village with South Africa, burning felled trees and other refuse. Some climbed aboard passing open trucks in motion. A bus was pelted with stones.

A police helicopter hovered above mean and militant children until police managed to quell the unrest as they employed new tactics every now and then.

A worried parent, Lucky Tlhaselo, who had watched the altercation between students and police wondered if the country was experiencing a student uprising similar to the June 16 uprising in South Africa. He urged the government to up the salaries of civil servants, teachers in particular, so that learning takes place.

The seemingly well coordinated students riots are blamed on the stand-off between public sector unions and the government over a pay hike.

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