State Media- MSITELI High School in Mpopoma, Bulawayo is under siege from rival pupils’ gangs fighting each other using dangerous weapons.
The violence reached a crescendo last Friday with the destruction of a section of the school’s precast wall and classrooms’ window panes. A gang member was said to have been seriously injured in the head following the attack while a girl was hospitalised some few weeks ago after a gang member sprayed pepper spray at the girls’ toilet.
Residents say the whole of last week the school resembled a war zone as the two gangs fought each other with stones, catapults, knives and knobkerries.
The two rival gangs are said to be made up of boys from Mpopoma, Iminyela and Mabuthweni suburbs who are leaners at Msiteli and Sizane High School in Pelandaba suburb.
On Friday a Chronicle news crew witnessed the two combatant gangs in running battles at around 4:30 pm at the school resulting in learning being briefly stopped after they threw stones at some classrooms.
Screaming pupils ran for cover in terror as stones rained in the direction of their classrooms as the fighting intensified.
The two gangs arrived at the school from two different directions before the fighting ensued with residents who live near the school scurrying for cover in their houses as the stones started flying.
The gangs seemed well coordinated as they took different positions around the school during the attack. They pelted each other with stones while others were using catapults before one group was overpowered and ran away.
The “winning gang” retreated and disappeared from the scene as terrified residents emerged from their houses in shock.
The school head, a Mr Vundla and some teachers came out of the school to inspect the section of the precast wall and windows that were destroyed.
The head was later forced to patrol the school surroundings using a white school commuter omnibus while some teachers were stationed at the gate as frightened pupils left the school premises at 5pm.
Small fights broke out when pupils walked home which saw pupils running in different directions with school authorities and residents watching in disbelief.
The school head said the problem was caused by school leavers, adding that school closures due to Covid-19 had resulted in serious pupils’ wayward behaviour.
A damaged perimeter wall at Msiteli High and one of the rogue pupils running from the school
He said they once reported the fights to police before saying he will not say much as the school was still investigating the issue.
A vendor who sells her wares outside the school said the violence happened throughout the week and was shocked police were never brought in.
“I am a vendor near the school and I saw a group of about 20 boys coming from the northern side of the school through a passage between the houses. One member of the gang hit a rival gang member on the head nge nduku. He managed to escape but I fear he will suffer internal bleeding,” she said.
She said the school has on some occasions delivered its prefects at home using the school kombi following attacks.
A resident who lives near the school and witnessed the fight as he drove back from work, Mr Lizwe Jiyane said the situation was tense during the attack and feared for the worst.
“I was coming from work and saw kids running in different directions. I stopped my car, waiting for the situation to settle as there were a lot of stones flying all over the place. One group was overpowered for a brief moment and I used that opportunity to drive to my house and park my car. But before long the overpowered group regrouped and they are the ones who pushed down the durawall and pelted stones that broke the window panes.
“We have never seen something like this and we don’t want to see it again. One would have expected that school authorities urgently phoned the police because when property is destroyed like this it is a serious cause for concern.
If this continues lives would be lost,” said Mr Jiyane.
Another resident, Mr Pearce Moyo said the school has a history of violent gangs besieging the learning institution around dismissal time.
He said the Friday violence was one of the worst adding that something needs to be done fast.
“I was once a temporary teacher at the school and used to see the fights during knock off time. The boys will stand by the school corner or at the gate before unleashing the violence. They are very organised and come armed with stones and catapults. They were throwing stones all over and I ran into my house for safety,” he said.
Mr Moyo said the gang that destroyed the school pre-cast wall were shouting that some of their rivals had sheltered inside the school which led to the destruction.
“The boys who brought down the wall were about four. When they did this the other gang members were pelting stones in the classroom resulting in the destruction of windowpanes. The pupils who were inside the classes which were pelted must be traumatised. As parents we are concerned that the safety of our children is no longer guaranteed at the school,” he said.
Mr Moyo said it was only a matter of time before the gangs injure residents as they appear “possessed“ during the fights.
“I suspect that part of the gang members are not from Mpopoma suburb because residents could have identified them. Some though are learners at Msiteli who dismissed at 12 and went to mobilise themselves and came in their personal clothes to avoid being identified. When the school head came out he said they will identify each other so I think he might have identified some of them.- State Media