MEC Schäfer pleased that incidents of burglary and vandalism have reduced
At the start of every school term, one of my main concerns is that teachers and learners will arrive at a school that has been badly vandalised or burgled during the winter school holidays.
Unfortunately, crime is fluid and crime prevention is not always within our control. The WCED arranged for additional security at 422 schools during the winter holiday. These measures included patrols at specific schools and clusters of schools.
I am therefore pleased to announce that the number of incidents reported is 15, down from 21 over the same period in 2016. One case was classified as major and fourteen cases were classified as minor.
This suggests that local communities are actively looking after schools, in addition to our security measures. We have found that the safest schools are those where local citizens help to look after the properties.
While many schools were hubs of activity over the holiday period, there were schools that remained vacant and were therefore targeted by vandals. We need communities to be vigilant regarding activities around our schools and report any suspicious behaviour to SAPS as soon as possible. We also need their assistance in identifying or reporting perpetrators who often are from within the community.
I would like to thank those who helped us.
Unfortunately, despite measures taken by the WCED, as well as school communities, some of our schools still fell victim to vandalism and burglaries during the school holiday.
Of the 15 incidents reported, the Metro Central Education District reported the highest number of incidents in the Province, with 4 incidents of burglary and vandalism.
The Cape Winelands and Metro North Districts each reported 3 incidents. One school in Metro North was targeted twice. In the first occurrence, burglars forcefully entered 4 classrooms as well as the feeding scheme storeroom and ablutions. Doors were damaged in each of these rooms to gain entry and food was stolen from the feeding scheme room, flush valves and piping from the ablutions, and computer towers and a radio from the classroom.
In the second occurrence, burglars gained entry to 7 classrooms and badly vandalised these. The school has an alarm system, but the alarm company indicates that the alarm was not activated by the trespassers. We are investigating and our Safe School Directorate will liaise with the school.
The Eden and Karoo District reported 2 incidents.
Metro East, Metro South and Overberg each reported 1 incident.
The most severe case was in Metro East. I was very disappointed to hear that a school was targeted for its ICT hardware. Burglars broke into the computer lab and made away with 27 full computers, the main server and a data projector. The cost to repair and replace what was damaged or stolen is estimated at around R350 000. As a government we are investing heavily in ICT to ensure that our learners are better prepared for the 21st century as well as improving their literacy and numeracy rates. The burglars in this case are stealing opportunities away from our children. I am not able to name the school due to security reasons, but I will say that the school is in Khayelitsha. I appeal to anyone in the community who has any information to report this to the SAPS immediately. SAPS has reportedly taken fingerprints so if anyone is able to assist them with their investigation and help us recover some of what was stolen, please do so.
In most cases, perpetrators broke into the school classrooms and vandalised the interior, breaking windows and doors, yet stealing nothing. Perpetrators also targeted ablutions and stole basins, flush mechanisms, copper wiring and pipes from schools.
The WCED spends about R10 million a year on emergency repairs for damage resulting from major incidents of vandalism. This financial year, we have had to increase this allocation to R30 million.
The department and schools could better spend these funds on improving the quality of education in schools. At the end of the day, vandalism represents theft from our learners.
I must acknowledge the decline in reported incidents year on year, and for this I would like to thank Safe Schools, Metro Police, SAPS and members of the community for their sustained efforts in assisting us in putting an end to vandalism and burglary in our schools.
It is absolutely nonsensical that we have to tolerate this ongoing destruction of our facilities that is forcing us to divert much needed resources that could be better used to improve education.
(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).