Cape Town - They dug underneath the perimeter fence, dragged a table across the quad to act as a makeshift ladder and broke through the roof of the school’s computer lab.
A gang of thieves stopped at nothing to rob Gugulethu Primary early on Friday and made off with 35 computers valued at about R60 000.
“This is terrible for us. These computers are used for maths, English and IT classes,” Grade 2 teacher Madolo Vuyelwa said as she surveyed the damage.
“Everything was on those computers: work, assessments.”
Teachers were shocked to find the computer lab had been gutted. Shards of glass and snapped locks lay scattered across the floor. Empty safe boxes, used to secure the computers to the desks, were warped and empty. Tabletops on which the monitors stood were cleared.
School governing body chairman Eric Potwana said he had followed the thieves’ trail of destruction to a backroom attached to the lab. Looking up, he saw the morning sky framed by a jagged hole in the roof.
“These guys broke the roof,” he said, “and then found the door to the lab was locked so they smashed a window (between the two rooms) and used a stool to climb through.”
Staff, who were still waiting on police officials from the forensics lab to arrive, said the thieves had used grinders to break the locks encasing the computers.
Potwana pointed to a picnic table, which he said thieves had “dragged very far” and used to climb on to the roof. Next to it was a bin in which a computer lay discarded amongst the waste.
“For some reason they did not take this one,” he said, He suspected the robbers had used the bin to wheel their haul to the perimeter fence where they had dug a hole.
This is the second time thieves have struck the school’s computer lab.
Principal Simphiwe Dyasi said the first time the thieves had also made a hole in the roof. He pointed to fresh repairs made to a large section of the IT lab’s ceiling.
“They only took eight that time,” he said. “You know it was the same guys because this time they came prepared - they knew exactly what to do.”
The school erected a cement fence around its grounds last month. But as Friday’s theft proved, “this was clearly not enough”.
Potwana said insurance would cover the cost of replacing the computers, but with the thieves still at large he asked “how long until they hit us again?”
“What we really need is for a security company to set up a satellite office right here in Gugulethu. If we could have a quick, a very quick response, this wouldn’t happen,” he said.
Police and city law enforcement have bolstered patrols in the area for the next two weeks while the school repairs the roof.