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South African Educators Shoot Students on Field Trip

May 22, 1999|From Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — A principal and a teacher opened fire at stone-throwing high school students angered over field-trip fees, killing one and wounding two, police said Friday.

The shootings Thursday at a rural school came as South Africans are increasingly worried about school violence and as the country experiences a crime wave.

"It's shocking because these things you see on TV, now it's happening in our area," said Mandla Msibi, an education department spokesman. "If it keeps happening, it will destroy the culture of learning and teaching in our schools."

While the United States is coping with a series of school shootings, violence in South African schools is fairly common. But the latest case stands out because it was educators pulling the triggers on those entrusted to their care.

Police Director Bala Naidoo said students at the neatly maintained school outside Scottburgh, an Indian Ocean beach town 310 miles southeast of Johannesburg, paid the equivalent of $1.60 for transportation for a field trip but were later told the fee was only $1.30.

The students demanded a refund for the 30 cents difference, no small amount in a country where at least 40% of blacks are unemployed. Most of the students are black, as are their teachers.

When the educators refused, the students began throwing rocks at the principal's car. He and several teachers were in the library when the students began stoning it, shattering library windows.

A teacher and the principal then pulled guns and opened fire.

"It was self-defense, but you can't condone it even if it was self-defense," said Msibi, who visited the wounded students and the parents of the slain youth.

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