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Catholic Entity in South Africa Decries Destruction of Schools amid Violent Protests

The logo of the Catholic Institute of Education (CIE). Credit: Catholic Institute of Education (CIE)

The destruction of over 30 schools in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Province amid ongoing protests is an issue of concern to the Catholic Institute of Education (CIE), whose leadership has called on the communities to protect learning institutions for the sake of the children. 

On Thursday, July 15, the National Professional Teachers’ Organization of South Africa (Naptosa) was quoted as reporting that at least 32 schools had been vandalized and one torched in the ongoing violent protests in the South African Province.  

“The news that some 32 schools have been vandalized, looted and some burnt is noted with great sadness by the Catholic Institute of Education,” CIE Director, Janice Seland, says in a Friday, July 16 statement. 

Ms. Seland adds that South Africa’s education system is already under strain from the effects of COVID-19 hence it “can ill afford any damage to schools.”

She further says that the violence, which has disrupted learning in schools is affecting the health of children who depend on meals offered in the schools. 

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“For some children, the daily school meal at school is the only food they receive and without a school to attend these children will be further disadvantaged and their health damaged,” Ms. Seland says.

In the statement, the CIE Director pleads with school communities “to protect their schools to ensure the future of our children.”

Violence  erupted in KwaZulu-Natal Province on July 7 after former President Jacob Zuma handed himself over to prison authorities under order from the Constitutional Court, which held him in contempt for repeatedly refusing to appear before a commission investigating allegations of corruption during his nine-year Presidency that ended in 2018.

At least 117 people have reportedly died and more than 2,000 arrested in the protests that have been described as South Africa’s worst unrest in years.  

In an interview with ACI Africa, the Director of Denis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI), Johan Viljoen, said the crisis has little to do with the former President, adding that South Africans are expelling their anger after many years of suffering.

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“The violence we are witnessing has very little, if anything, to do with former President Jacob Zuma’s jailing. The riots have turned into looting and destruction of property and people’s frustrations are clearly coming to the fore,” Mr. Viljoen told ACI Africa July 12.

He added, “People are suffering from extreme poverty and some are risking their lives, dodging live bullets to steal food from people’s shops because they are hungry.”

Catholic Bishops in the country have expressed concerns over the growing tendency of South Africans to resort to violence whenever they need their issues addressed by those in leadership.

In their July 13 statement shared with ACI Africa, members of the Southern African Catholic of Bishops Conference (SACBC) said, “Our society has normalized the use of violence and vandalism to get the government to listen and be serious in addressing economic concerns of the poor.”

There is need, the Catholic Church leaders said, for “a shift in mind-set, a collective conversion of heart and mind, which affirms that violent protests and destruction of property can never be a just response to the current economic hardships and economic injustice.”

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