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Khutlo Tharo Secondary School in Sebokeng, Gauteng, was set alight on Wednesday morning, just hours before the start of the first day of the academic year.

According to News24, Emfuleni Local Municipality fire and rescue spokesperson, Stanley Gaba, said that a community member alerted emergency services about the fire at around 3:00 am. It was understood that the admin building caught fire. A community member on the scene told News24 that residents were unable to extinguish the fire themselves, due to a lack of water. She said: “All taps are dry because we have been without water in our area since last week.”

Learners who came to school, ready to start the year, were all sent home as police forensic experts combed the scene, gathering clues.

Police spokesperson Brig Mathapelo Peters said: “The cause of the fire is yet to be established and the extent of the damage will also be determined in due course.” Recent reports, however, speculate that this may have been an arson attack, as this is the second school in the Vaal that has burned within the past two weeks.

TimesLive reported about a fire at Tokelo High School on 2 January. The report said: “four classrooms, learning material and stock worth an estimated R4m were reduced to ashes in the blaze at Tokelo High School”.

No injuries were reported in either case.