Arrests made after PE education protest

Picture: Christine Vermooten

Schooling in the northern areas of Port Elizabeth was again yesterday disrupted by violent protests by parents and pupils.

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An eye witness, who only wants to be known as Witbooi, said the learners and teachers were sent messages using WhatsApp that there would be no school on Monday due to the organised protest.

Witbooi, who is also a resident, said the schools in the northern areas were short of teachers. The areas include Booysens Park, Helenvale and Jacksonville.

Witbooi also said that protesters were violent and police officers had to use rubber bullets, water cannons and teargas to disperse the protesters.

Later in the day, one pupil was reportedly wounded in Helenvale after being hit by a rubber bullet.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Marinda Mills said the police warned residents to avoid affected areas.

“It would be safer for people to avoid areas where there are demonstrations because they could be injured, we have had incidents in the past where bystanders were injured.”

Mills said some roads remained closed and police continue to maintain a high visibility in the area.

“Six police vehicles and one vehicle belonging to a community member were damaged. Criminal elements ceased the opportunity during the protests and tried to loot a shop in West End, but police acted swiftly and dispersed the crowd before the shop was looted.”

The police also said they have arrested two suspects who will appear in the Gelvandale Magistrate’s Court today.

By yesterday afternoon calm returned to the affected areas.

“The situation is slowly returning to normal. There are negotiations taking place at the moment,” she said.

Mills said that the allegation that police had used live ammunition on the protesters was untrue.

Eastern Cape education department spokesman Loyiso Pulumani said the protests followed the closure of 23 schools in the area by the Northern Areas Forum.

“This was the catalyst for the protests. We have been shocked by the violence. This (the violence) has nothing to do with the issues. We didn’t close the schools.”

He said that the Northern Areas Forum had closed the schools at the start of the third term last week.

Last year in September, there was also a protest in Port Elizabeth against the shortage of teachers.

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