Black students in the Soweto African township near Johannesburg began returning to their classrooms on Thursday (6 January) after six months of refusing to attend school.
GV Children walking about in school yard
GV Leratong Higher Primary School with schoolchildren waiting outside classroom
CU & GV School master ringing bell
GV Schoolchildren in classroom (3 shots)
SV School sign "Orlando High School"
SCU Schoolmaster speaking to reporter
TRANSCRIPT: SEQ. 6: SCHOOL MASTER: "This morning we had approximately 200 children who turned up and since this is the first day, especially after what happened last year, it's quite encouraging."
REPORTER: "How many pupils do you normally have at the school?"
SCHOOL TEACHER: "We normally have 900 students at the school and I think that on the first day about a quarter of them or so have turned up, the others who have been staying away may take up courage and come to school."
REPORTER: "So you anticipate a better attendance later on do you?"
SCHOOL TEACHER: "I think by the weekend -- by Friday -- they'll have rallied around and by Monday we may be having a full quota."
REPORTER: "What is the general attitude of the students to their studies?"
SCHOOL TEACHER: "They seem keen to study, although I think their discipline was broken after what happened between June and December. But they gave me the idea this morning when I spoke to them that they are willing to try it over again."
The government policy which caused the Soweto riots in June was the insistence that all South African black children should learn the Afrikaans language spoken by South African whites of Dutch descent.
From next month parents of black South African six-to-seven year old children starting school will have to give a written undertaking to keep them in school for at least two years. Attempts are also being made to reduce the pupil-teacher ratio in black schools and to improve the qualifications of teachers by offering them grants for degree courses. Mr. Michael Botha, the Minister of Bantu (African) Education has also said that eight new adult education centres would become operational in black townships early next year.
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: Black students in the Soweto African township near Johannesburg began returning to their classrooms on Thursday (6 January) after six months of refusing to attend school. But it was only a partial return to normality. Many other students -- mostly the older ones -- stayed away, apparently waiting to asses the popularity of the move back to school.
SYNOPSIS: The boycott followed rioting in the township that began last June. Since then the government has introduced several reforms, making education compulsory for African children and providing text books free for senior students. Police stayed away form the schools as teaching got underway, although patrols were seen in nearby streets.
It was a protest against government education policy that sparked off the Soweto riots last year -- riots which spread to most of South Africa's population centres resulting in the death and injury of hundreds of people. But with police assurances that they will not interfere, teachers in Soweto now believe that gradually all their pupils will drift back into school. There has been speculation that teachers in black schools might leave the profession because of the unrest -- but most still seem dedicated to their work.