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SAfrica School To Reopen After Riot

April 15, 1998

VRYBURG, South Africa (AP) _ The coils of razor-edged wire surrounding Vryburg’s high school came down and the doors reopened to students today, ending a three-week break meant to calm violent clashes over classroom discrimination.

Black and white teen-agers filed into rural Vryburg High School without incident. Unlike a few weeks ago, before the school was closed, no police or soldiers were deployed outside.

The reopening of Vryburg High School comes after a government-appointed task force recommended changes at the school, including appointment of a black vice principal and granting black students equal access to all school facilities.

While most schools in South Africa have been integrated since President Nelson Mandela came to power in the 1994 all-race elections, some in rural areas dominated by Afrikaners _ the Dutch-descended white settlers of South Africa _ remain resistant to change.

In Vryburg, black leaders considered the school a mini-apartheid state, where black students were accepted _ grudgingly _ but kept separate from whites and deprived of the equipment that white students used.

Black student leaders said Monday night they would give the school a chance to carry out the recommended changes before deciding whether other actions are necessary.

The dispute exposed fractures in Vryburg, set amid farmlands 180 miles west of Johannesburg.

In February, a protest by black students resulted in them being arrested by police, then roughed up by white officers at the police station. Black police officers confronted their white colleagues over their treatment of the students, who were released from custody.

White parents later stormed into the school and attacked black students with whips and sticks.

The conflict reached a peak on March 19, when residents of a black township on Vryburg’s outskirts attempted to march on the school, and fought pitched battles with police.

The school then was ordered closed early for Easter vacation in an attempt to defuse tensions.

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