The incident comes barely a fortnight after widely publicised acts of indiscipline at the school, which led to the institution’s temporary closure.
Insiders say it appears the fire was started intentionally since a pile of partially burnt papers were found within the hostel premises. “Upon arrival at the boys’ hostels, there was a pile of semi-burnt papers in there. It seems that is where the students initially wanted to start the fire, but for some reason failed,” a source said.
Thr source added that intentions to deliberately set the hostel ablaze could not be ruled out. The burnt mattresses, which are reported to have been in a good state, were located at the laundry area on the ground floor. As they burnt, the outer layer of the laundry space ceiling caught fire too.
However, the entire ceiling was not burnt as the fire was put out on time. The mattresses were placed in a manner such that one of the entry and exit passages of the affected hostel wing was blocked.
Goodhope station commander, Mogomotsi Kwapa said his office was called to intervene. He confirmed that government property was burnt, and investigations into the matter are ongoing.
“The ceiling of the western wing has been affected though not entirely burnt. Moreover, the wall is dark from the smoke that covered it during the fire,” he said. It was resolved that very strict measures would be taken against troublesome learners at the last disciplinary meeting held after some boys trespassed into the girls’ hostels and allegedly indulged in sexual acts.
Hell broke lose when the school management, along with the police, tried to bring order. They were stoned by a group of more than 50 students. Kwapa said the police cannot be deployed to the school as it was examination time and their presence there would likely intimidate and disturb learners not misbehaving.
“However, this does not mean that the culprits won’t be brought to task. Investigations are ongoing, though initial attempts to establish what the cause of the fire was didn’t yield results as students said they had no idea,” Kwapa said.
fire would face the music, adding that likely charges are malicious damage to property and others depending on findings of the investigation. As a result of the incident, about 10 students missed exams. Further, by yesterday the school had not yet submitted some Home Economics practical marks.
Education director for the South region, Acronews Maseko said events at the school are a confluence of many factors. He said in an interview that the school has a history of lawlessness, which he attributed a clash of cultures in the sense that its catchment areas include diverse places such as Molepolole, Jwaneng, Mabule and the host, Goodhope. In addition, it is a school of excellence for learners gifted in sports.
“There has been lawlessness going on at the school for some time and the issues were just solved at administration level since the school management was of the view that these are learners who could be disciplined at school level, but things have gotten out of hand,” Maseko said.
Adding that, “some of these learners come from a lture where it is not wrong for children their age to engage in sexual acts, and love affairs are condoned by their parents. And for some time now, these students have been engaging in sexual practices in the hostels. When the school tries to bring order students from such cultures feel and believe they are denied access to their lovers,” Maseko said.
The other major cause of indiscipline, according to Maseko is that students, especially those from Jwaneng have large amounts of cash at their disposal, enabling them easy access to drugs and alcohol. “We have noted that parents give students too much money, and in some instances parents fear their children and are unable to discipline them,” he added.
He said the Wednesday incident was clearly a criminal act by a small group of students who terrorise the school after using substances such as dagga and alcohol. However, he noted that the destroyed mattresses were old. Strict measures, top amongst them, are immediate expulsion to be taken against the culprits, Maseko said. “I am not aware of the 10 students who missed exams on Tuesday, I will find it out (about them),” he said.