S African students smuggled to 'study camp'

After protesters close down schools, burn buildings and threaten teachers, secret facilities are only learning locale.


    I arrive at a study camp in the Northern Cape province of South Africa.

    It took me hours to get here, partly because most people we asked for directions claimed not to know what I was talking about.

    But it made sense when I finally arrived.

    The few high school students, teachers and volunteers look at me suspiciously. They tell me later they were afraid I was an informant.

    It's a study camp - a kind of safe house - for students who desperately want to write and pass their final year exams.

    There are about 360 students here from various schools in the province. Some were literally "smuggled" out of their village at night (with the consent of their parents) to come here. Teachers say if anyone had seen them, there would have been trouble.

    Every child I speak to tells me the same story: protesters (people in their communities at home) closed down schools and threatened teachers.

    I met some of the protesters a day earlier in Olifantshoek. They want the government to improve living conditions and create jobs in poor communities.

    But they believe violence is the only way to do this and they have burnt down government buildings to prove their point.

    The children at this camp have missed five months of lessons because of the violent strikes.

    I wonder if it's too late to play catch up - but they seem determined to do well when exams start in October.

    I thank the teachers for allowing me to speak to them, but before I leave, I am shown an SMS sent from an unknown number to one of the teachers.

    It reads, "You must leave that place or else we will burn your house and kill your family." That's when I realise what a risk being here is for these children and teachers.

    The person in charge begs me not to say where the study camp is or mention names of teachers I have spoken to.

    A police car drives past they regularly patrol the area I am told.

    I leave shocked that this is actually happening in a democratic South Africa.



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