Thousands of black students returned to school in some African townships near Johannesburg in South Africa on Thursday (22 July).
Thousands of black students returned to school in some African townships near Johannesburg in South Africa on Thursday (22 July). But in Soweto, Johannesburg's principal black area, the classrooms were deserted.
SYNOPSIS: Soweto was the scene of the race riots five weeks ago that left about 180 people dead, and closed the schools. The decision to re-open them came in an apparent reversal of government thinking. The Justice Minister, James Kruger, last week announced that they would stay closed because of fears that agitators planned new riots to coincide with the new school term.
Then he held a meeting with black community leaders and the government changed its mind, despite fresh rioting in three areas in the past week. Soweto itself remained quiet. The black leaders agreed to try and prevent new disturbances.
Large scale absenteeism was reported in the majority of Soweto schools on Thursday. Various reasons were given. One headmaster said the children were under the influence of outside elements and afraid to go to school. But a Soweto community leader, Mr. R. Maponya, attributed the absences to different reasons.