This is according to report released by the South African Human Rights Commission on Thursday.
With the police too under-resourced to effectively respond and stop violence during protests, turning schools into national key points was seen as a possible effective deterrent.
” Such a declaration would help in ensuring that there are more personnel to manage the situation should the need arise, However, such a declaration would increase security costs,” the report on the impact of protests on schooling stated.
The report showed that Vuwani pupils in Limpopo were the most affected by protests in the wake of a long drawn-out community revolt against inclusion in a newly-planned municipality. At least 32,000 pupils in Vuwani were unable to attend classes after more that 29 schools were torched during the protests earlier this year.
The other area that also suffered was Kuruman and surrounding villages in the Northern Cape, where learners were physically prevented from attending school in 2014 for four months. Fifty four schools were targeted by parents who demanded a 200 kilometre road be tarred road, leaving 16,000 pupils missing classes.
Commissioner Judith Cohen decried the ineffectiveness of Section 3 of the South African Schools Act, which proclaims that it was illegal for a parent to deny a child education, and such act was punishable by law. The commission recommended the review of the Act.
“The provisions in these laws are not used. It was found that very often the police who respond to such protests fail to take action against protesters who were acting in such a criminal manner. Questions need to be asked why the police do not always arrest and prosecute people acting in this manner…for perpetrators this shows there was no consequences against such acts.”
The commission recommended that the police prioritise the target of schools and treat them as priority crimes. It called on the department to create a national “public protest team”, together with the police, the Department of Co-operation Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), and come up with a plan to counter attacks on schools. All plans and information gathered should be shared with the National Planning Commission in the Presidency.
DBE director Faith Khumalo said the department welcomed the report. The department had solely faced the attacks on schools, which were very costly, she said.
“The costs are too high – they’re costly to the child’s education, on the serious issue of school infrastructure and the costly inconvenience for the surrounding communities because of the disruptions.”
The department was asked to get back to the commission by June 2017 and furnish a report on what it had done in terms of the recommendations.