Increase in the number of schools targeted over the Easter Holidays
During the April school holiday period, the WCED's Safe Schools directorate increased security at identified high risk schools and deployed additional security to these schools.
I am concerned that despite increased security measures at schools across the province, perpetrators still continue to target our schools.
Over the April holiday period, a total of 17 incidents were reported by schools across the province, which is up from 15 incidents reported during the same period in 2016.
I am however pleased that they were all reported as 'minor' incidents. An incident is classified as minor if the cost for damage is less than R100 000.
The estimated cost of damages thus far has come in at around R150 000 with only half of the estimates being calculated.
The incidents reported included theft of copper pipes, electrical cabling, computer equipment, school stationery and food items. In some incidents, perpetrators targeted schools simply to destroy property and left without stealing anything. This is shocking and completely unacceptable.
Damage to classrooms, school halls and computer labs included theft of and damage to light fittings, broken windows and stolen sporting equipment.
As a result of these and other incidents, we have also had to increase our emergency maintenance budget this year to R30 million, up R20 million from 2016/17. It is unfortunate that we have to spend such a large amount of money on repair work at schools as a result of burglary and vandalism.
We should be using these funds to build new schools, improve existing schools and generally improve opportunities for children.
School vandalism not only comes at a cost to the Education Department but to that of the learners and the community too.
While we can and do try to safeguard our schools with additional security measures, we cannot win the fight against school burglary and vandalism without community support as schools, given their extensive physical infrastructure, are very difficult areas to secure.
A school is a community asset. Everyone should help protect schools as it is fundamental to the future of our children.
Our Safe Schools Directorate is very active in mobilising communities to look after schools, in conjunction with the police and community-based organisations.
The co-operation of the community is essential in order to combat vandalism and to create a safe school environment that promotes teaching and learning. We urge community members to be extra vigilant throughout the year and to immediately report any suspicious behaviour or activities that occur within the vicinity of their schools to report this immediately. I would also thank the many communities who have taken this seriously and helped us to protect our schools.
(Please note: The WCED does not identify the names of schools that have been affected by burglary and vandalism. In many cases, the damages caused by the perpetrators can result in a security threat or breach. Therefore, it is our policy to not announce the names).