KRISTE Mambo High School girls on Monday overpowered unarmed police officers and trooped out of the school premises before staging a 25km protest demanding the immediate removal of a watchman and their matron.
The students who used bush paths to walk to Rusape were later intercepted by armed police officers and their dogs at Nyahukwe along the Nyanga-Rusape Highway.
The explosive protests left the learning process in turmoil and almost ruined the commencement of the June exams. The protests started on Sunday and reached a fever pitch on Monday as the students smashed windowpanes at the school before trooping out of the school premises.
The students were also armed with switches and police officers who had been deployed to monitor the situation had to call for more manpower as the situation got out of hand. The overpowered unarmed police officers watched helplessly as the students marched for 25km toward Rusape.
Superintendent Alfred Kasingarirwi, who rushed to the school with additional manpower, confirmed the disturbances, and warned the students that they would be arrested for militancy. Armed police were still deployed at the school on Wednesday.
“You will not be allowed to go outside these premises again. Be warned because we will no longer be lenient with you. You are young children, and we do not expect you to create anarchy. If you continue, we will remove the kid gloves, and effectively deal with you. We have dealt nendururani dzevarume vakuru before. Remember some of you are writing June exams and you are creating a bad environment for them,” warned Supt Kasingarirwi. ”You must give the investigations a chance. As the aggrieved party, we expect you to show great respect to other stakeholders who are trying to mediate and ensure that the issues you have raised are addressed,” said Supt Kasingarirwi. On Sunday, the combative students were intercepted on their way to Nyanga. The highly temperamental girls accused the security guard identified as Govha of violent conduct, which includes alleged threats to sexually assault them during evening and morning studies. Govha was not available for a comment.
However, information obtained from teachers and students showed that he (Govha) was unpopular due to his alleged iron handed tactics. The students also accused one of their matrons, Mrs Caroline Chitenga of ill-treating them. The students alleged that Govha and Mrs Chitenga use abusive and foul language against them. Some O-Level students accused the school authorities for failing to take their education seriously. They alleged that some O-Level classes have not been doing Accounts, Mathematics and History since last term, and were lagging behind the syllabus, dimming excelling prospects of those writing the June exams.
They also complained of poor and insufficient food, canning and corporal punishment. The students also alleged that for many years they have been forced to buy all the uniforms, including those for sports, from the headmaster’s wife. They alleged that the uniforms were of inferior quality.
This was in contravention of Statutory Instrument (SI) 89 of 1992 that governs the operations of School Development Committees. The SI bars heads, their wives, or any member of the SDC from engaging in any contract with the school because they have an unfair advantage over other bidders as they have knowledge of funds in the school account.
“Guard Govha must go. He treats us inhumanly. He is naturally a violent man. We are hesitant to conduct evening and morning studies because he constantly threatens to rape us,” said the protesters.
“The matron must also go. She is rude and ill-treats us. We are fed up with her,” said the students. The students vowed to press ahead if their grievances were not addressed. Kriste Mambo head, Mr Andrew Mvere, could not say much about the demonstration. Mr Mvere was conspicuous by his absence when other stakeholders addressed the students. Only his deputy Mr Munhuwei was present. This was the third protest during Mr Mvere’s 10 year reign at the school.
Two other demos rocked the school in 2003 and 2009. ”They have some issues, the situation is very disturbing,” said Mr Mvere, before referring this reporter to his superiors, citing policy. ”I need ministry clearance first,” said Mr Mvere. The Manica Post understands that the demo, which was imminent, was sparked after Govha assaulted a student from St Faith High, accusing him of sneaking into the school. The student sustained head injuries, courting the wrath the students and teachers who felt that the guard overreacted.
The student’s schoolmates escaped unhurt. The St Faith’s High students were also spotted at St David’s Girls High (Bonda) last Saturday and St Faith’s High head, Mr Moses Mukoyi, has reportedly suspended them. Sources said the St Faith’s High students had accompanied their relatives for a Form One entrance test that was being held at Kriste Mambo.
The security personnel however, accused them of visiting their girlfriends. So far 15 girls have been blacklisted for entertaining the boys. Their parents have been summoned. ”About 15 girls entertained these boys. They were cited in reports submitted by the students from St Faith’s High. We have called the parents of those involved,” said a senior administrator.
The girls disputed assertions that they were protesting against the assault of the St Faith’s High student. ”No. Why would we demonstrate over that boy? They are politicking. That incident was a catalyst. It only served as an outlet valve. Our grievances have been there, and we were eventually going to protest. We are demonstrating as we have genuine concerns. We are constantly abused by the security guard and the matron.
“Some Form 4s are not doing Maths, Accounts and History,” said one student, who silenced the rest to dispel the assertions.
A teacher said: “It was wrong for him to beat the defenceless boy like that without establishing his mission first. The attack hinged on suspicion. He should have taken up the matter with the authorities. ”The guard is not an authority. He is a violent man, at one point he stabbed another teacher (name supplied) with a knife. He is too temperamental to be entrusted with school children. He is not civil in his dealings with children.”
The deputy District Education Officer for Makoni, Mr Creezin Chofamba, said investigations into the fracas commenced on Tuesday. He said no student would be punished. ”Your grievances are genuine. You have made your point clear. We are investigating your grievances. None of you will be punished. Do not stray into the surrounding forests, as you will risk your health,” said Mr Chofamba.
The Parents Teachers’ Association members also appealed to the students to remain calm while a lasting solution to their grievances was being worked out. The PTA will hold a crisis management meeting tomorrow (Saturday).
PTA member, Mr Standon Mugaradziko, said the demonstration shows that something was wrong at the school