Criminals target new digital classrooms
Johannesburg - Just a few days before his contract was to end, security guard Boy Tshiloane was held up at gunpoint, and his hands and feet were bound by criminals who made off with electronic equipment from a Soweto school.
Police said the robbers broke into the administrative block at Phafogang Secondary School in Rockville. They stole five laptops, two desktop computers and three smart interactive boards with an estimated value of R410 000 a few days after they were installed.
The equipment was part of the second phase of the paperless classroom project, which saw the distribution of tablets to Grade 12 pupils in 375 schools across Gauteng.
Tshiloane, 55, who has been working at the school for three years and whose contract expires on Friday, said on Monday he was on duty around 2am on Saturday when the group of about eight robbers pounced.
They were dressed in black bulletproof vests, green pants and balaclavas.
“We were in a classroom writing the hourly report when someone knocked on the window with a gun, telling us to open the door. My colleague and I pushed desks against the door to try to stop them from coming in,” he said.
When they realised Tshiloane and his colleague Phehello Modumo didn’t want to open the door, the gang started shooting.
“They didn’t shoot in our direction but they just wanted us to realise they were going to kill us if we didn’t open. We then let go of the door. They took our cellphones and bound our legs and hands with shoelaces. One guy stayed with us in the classroom while the others went to the principal’s office and classes,” he said.
Tshiloane said the men spent three hours opening classrooms and removing smartboards from the walls.
“All we could hear were grinders going on for hours. The work was very professional. When you look at how they cut the doors, it was done by people who have done this before. By the time everything quietened and we realised they were gone, it was at about 5am.
“We’ve never had a break-in like this before. Usually it’s simple things like the nyaope boys trying to steal door handles. This was a properly planned attack.”
The two men, who are also community police forum members, untied each other. Tshiloane was not injured but Modumo was pistol-whipped.
Gauteng education spokeswoman Phumla Sekhonyane said break-ins at schools would not stop the department from continuing with the paperless classroom programme.
“The department views this break-in as a brutal and barbarous act, carried out by nothing but thugs who seek to reverse the gains this government has made in elevating the standard of the delivery of quality education.
“The department remains committed and determined to realise its vision, which aspires to build a world-class education system by modernising public education and improve the standard of performance. No amount of thuggery will deter our efforts.”
Sekhonyane added that a high-tech security system would be installed at the school, and the Moroka police had agreed to increase patrols in the area.