THE DAILY DISPATCH, East London, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, Friday, 26 November 2004.

Circumcision unrest terrifies village teachers

By Mayibongwe Maqhina

EAST LONDON - Teachers at Msobomvu High School at Zikhova near Chalumna fear for their lives as violence among village youths intensifies during the circumcision period.

The teachers' spokesman, Mzwandile Funeka, said they were also concerned about vandalism at their unfenced school.

"For the past years there has always been fighting among learners from the villages surrounding the school.

"This fighting continues even in school premises, especially during the circumcision period," the teachers said in a joint statement.

"We as teachers of Msobomvu are feeling threatened about the situation of our school."

The teachers said whenever it was time for circumcisions, in June and November, vandalism and violence at the school became more prevalent.

The school provides education for five villages: Zikhova, Ngqinisa, Manzikhanyi, Kampini and KwaDowu.

Funeka said it had become normal for windows and doors to be broken, and electricity cables and blackboards to be damaged.

It was easy for anyone to get into the school's premises as there was no fencing.

"Thugs come to the school at anytime. If there was fencing not everybody could get in.

"We live in fear as teachers. We appeal for fencing for the school," he said, adding that the violence was also beyond the school governing body, which had tried to normalise the situation.

The governors had decided that incidents of violence and vandalism would be reported to the police.

Indeed, there have been several cases reported to the police and arrests were made in June last year.

On November 19 learners who did not come to examinations disturbed those who sat the tests.

Last weekend a matric learner, Mkhokeli Songezo, died, apparently as a result of unrest, especially among youths from the five villages who are undergoing circumcisions.

Several attempts to reach Education Department spokesman Gay Khaile were unsuccessful.

(File created 11 January 2005)