Bokmakierie Primary School in Athlone
Bokmakierie Primary School in Athlone

Vandalism, burglaries at 38 Cape schools mar July holidays

By Shakirah Thebus Time of article published Aug 2, 2021

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Cape Town - Thirty-eight schools across the Western Cape were affected by burglary, attempted burglary or vandalism during the July school holidays, according to the Western Cape Education Department (WCED).

The department said items reportedly stolen included sports equipment, gardening and maintenance equipment, fencing, building fixtures, lighting and electrical cables, IT equipment, stationery, kitchen equipment, and food for school meals.

“I am extremely disappointed that our schools have once again been targeted by ruthless criminals while closed for the holidays. Our schools are already operating in difficult circumstances, and the last thing they need is to be further disrupted by damages and theft,” said Education MEC Debbie Schäfer.

“In some cases, wanton vandalism appears to be the motive – instead of stealing anything, the perpetrators simply destroy anything, from furniture to bathroom fixtures. These are pointless and malicious acts, with our children on the losing end as a result. To damage your local school is self-sabotage,” said Schäfer.

The estimated cost of repairs and replacing stolen goods was still being assessed. However, the department spent about R10 million repairing damages in the 2020/21 financial year.

Schäfer urged those who come across stolen goods or suspicious activity at schools, to contact the police or the Safe Schools hotline on 0800 45 46 47.

South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) provincial secretary Jonavon Rustin said, “As Sadtu Western Cape, we want to indicate that burglaries and vandalism have devastating effects on education, learning and teaching, especially when the thugs vandalise classrooms.

“Furthermore, the equipment that is used for the school’s feeding scheme is stolen, leaving our staff unable to cook meals for our learners. Sometimes the urns, kettles, computers, laptops are stolen that are the essential tools of the trade for our educators. We must remember that schools are assets for the community,” said Rustin.

Last week, a 59-year-old Woodlands Primary School security guard died in hospital soon after an attack by thieves at the school.

“We are particularly saddened by the murder of a security guard in Heideveld as part of the violence and burglary and theft at the particular primary school. We have read that the alleged perpetrators have appeared in court, and we’re saying that the full might of the law needs to take its course in this regard.

“But the community should speak out. If they’re aware of those who are violating schools, report it to the Saps, as well as to WCED, teachers and principal, so that we can ensure that our schools are safe places.”

Progressive Principals Association spokesperson Anthea Adriaanse said: “These types of vandalism affect the morale of staff who often contribute from their own pockets.

“It also impacts on the finances of the school, as these unnecessary expenditures have to come from school funds which could be better spent on other projects. In some cases, schools have to close, as there is no access to water, and this impacts on teaching and learning.”

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