Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
MORE than 150 pupils from Njube High School in Bulawayo yesterday staged a demonstration allegedly against school fees increase, marching to Entumbane complex while waving placards amid claims that they were incited by one of their teachers.
The science teacher, Mr Brian Mutsiba, who incited the students to protest that their teachers had abandoned lessons due to poor salaries, is now on the run.
The pupils are also said to have been protesting against the increase in school fees from $92 to $440 per term.
The pupils left their school located in Njube suburb, marched to siyephambili Drive before heading towards the city using Luveve Road. They made a U-turn near Entumbane Complex after their headmaster ordered them to do so.
The incident occurred at about 10AM.
Sources said Mr Mutsiba removed President Mnangagwa’s portrait that was in the school’s staff room before handing it to the pupils.
Prior to taking to the streets, the pupils are said to have removed the country’s flag from the school and used it to wipe their shoes before waving it around during their over 30 minutes demonstration.
Bulawayo acting Provincial Education Director Mrs Olicah Kaira said she would have to brief her superiors before commenting about the protests.
“I’m yet to make a report to the Permanent Secretary (Mrs Tumisang Thabela) following today’s events. However, part of what is circulating on social media (about learners demonstrating) is true. But I have to follow procedures and communicate to headquarters before commenting to the Press. However, I want to assure the public that the situation was dealt with before it got out of control,” said Mrs Kaira.
She dismissed claims that teachers had abandoned pupils to harvest amacimbi.
“The teachers are in schools. We don’t have amacimbi in Bulawayo and teachers are professionals, they would not leave pupils to harvest the mopane worms. I was in a meeting with the school heads today at Masotsha High School who confirmed that teachers are in schools doing their work. Whoever originated the message that our teachers are not in school just wants to taint our image as a province, we don’t know for what reasons,” said Mrs Kaira.
She said the teacher who is accused of inciting the learners is on the run.
Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube referred questions to national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi, whose cellphone rang unanswered.
However, police sources said 153 Form One, Form Three and Form Six pupils participated in the demonstration.
“The teacher who is on the run is now facing charges of participating in a public gathering with intent to promote public violence, breach of peace or bigotry. He is also facing charges of Contravening Section 6 of the Flag of Zimbabwe, Chapter 10:10, in short insulting the flag,” said the police source.
Parents who spoke to The Chronicle said they did not understand why their children were demonstrating.
A vendor who sells her wares by the school gate, Mrs Catherine Moyo, said she observed the pupils’ uncharacteristic behaviour when they left the school.
“We just saw them coming out of the school at around 10AM. This was an unlikely time. They were not making any noise, they seemed organised. But we are now told that they went as far as Entumbane Complex. What is worrying is that we are being told that they were influenced by a teacher.
“We are here trying to raise fees yet a teacher who is supposed to be teaching them was inciting them to protest. What if one of them was hit by a car during the process, who would have been answerable?” asked Mrs Moyo.
Another vendor operating near the intersection of Siyephambili Drive and Luveve Road said she was shocked to see the pupils waving President Mnangagwa’s portrait.
“We just saw pupils from Njube High School coming from the school’s direction singing and chanting songs like into oyenzayo siyayizonda (we don’t like what you are doing.) They claimed they were protesting against school fees increase saying it was just too much and their parents were struggling to raise the funds,” she said. — @nqotshili.