Robert Blake Secondary School in Dowa is in ashes after students went on rampage last night and burnt anything that could burn, and breaking what could be broken, forcing government to temporarily close the school.
Deputy Minister of Education Nancy Chaoola Mdooko, who visited the school on Friday confirmed, in an interview, reports that the students went wild after the school’s head teacher Ellard Msumba stopped them from having entertainment throughout the weekend.
She said: “They briefed me that the students wanted to have entertainment from Friday to Sunday, but the head teacher permitted them to have the entertainment on Saturday only. That’s what sparked the anger.”
Mdooko, however, said she has asked the school management to recall Form One students within two weeks to continue learning and help in the investigation on what really happened.
But a source within the school management claimed that the students were reacting to a suspension imposed on two Form Four students who were caught smoking Indian hemp.
According to Dowa Police Station public relations officer Alice Sitima, the school laboratory, general stores, library and one classroom block have been extensively damaged.
In an interview, Sitima said police have heard the school’s statement but will conduct their own independent investigation.
One of the school’s teachers, who opted for anonymity, said the students accuse school management of being strict in enforcing the school’s rules and regulations.
“Among other reasons, the students are saying they are not happy that the new management does not allow them to be having cellphones and, also, smoke,” said the source.
But Msumba said he could not comment on the matter because he was in a meeting.
Reacting to the development in a statement issued on Friday, the Civil Society Education Coalition said they are deeply dismayed and concerned by reports of the wanton vandalism, and have since condemned the act.
“While we recognise that student grievances and concerns are an essential part of the educational environment, we firmly believe that any form of protest or expression of discontent should be channeled through peaceful and constructive means. Vandalism and destruction of school property not only undermines the learning environment but also sets a detrimental precedent for future generations,” reads in part the statement co-signed by the coalition’s executive director Benedicto Kondowe and Board chairperson Limbani Nsapato.