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Black Schools Closing in Port Elizabeth

October 19, 1986

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ An Education Department spokesman indicated Saturday that black schools in Port Elizabeth would be closed because its 40,000 students are boycotting all classes.

Such an action would affect about 40 schools, according to a local journalist who has reported on education in the eastern Cape area for several years. Telephone calls to the homes of Department of Education spokesmen in Pretoria were not answered Saturday.

Thirty-three black schools in the eastern Cape and Soweto, a Johannesburg township, were closed last month by non-attendance. The Education Department said that schools maintaining at least 80 percent attendance in the Port Elizabeth area would remain open until Dec. 31, the end of the school year.

But Peter Mundell, the department’s liaison officer, said in an interview published Saturday in a Port Elizabeth newspaper that the boycott there was total and it was ″pointless to leave the schools open.″

He made no specific announcement of closings, but said students from third grade through high school were involved in the boycott. Children in primary schools have usually been exempted from the boycotts enforced by youths in the townships, but the lower grades have been affected in the eastern Cape.

Students organizing the school boycotts have made various demands: that teachers and youths detained under the June state of emergency be released; that troops be withdrawn from campuses; and year-end examinations be postponed.

The Education Department says it will not postpone the exams and will make security arrangements in some places to ensure that students who want to take their tests are not intimidated.

The government’s Bureau for Information has reported nine school arsons during the past three weeks, and several incidents of books being burned at schools. It quoted the Department of Education on Friday as saying the arsons are not unusual at this time of year because students who have not been to classes are trying to interfere with exams.

Meanwhile, the bureau said in its daily report on violence that there were few incidents Friday, that more than half occurred in Soweto and most involved stone-throwing.

The only reported injury occurred when a group threw a gasoline bomb at a delivery vehicle in Grahamstown, 56 miles northeast of Port Elizabeth, the bureau said. It said a young man was hurt slightly but did not elaborate.

The bureau also reported a gasoline bomb attack on the home of a member of the security forces, but gave no further details. The bureau is the clearinghouse for all information about violence, and in recent weeks has refused to answer questions by telephone.

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