MEC Schafer calls on communities to help protect schools
During the December 2017 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 December holiday period, a total of 32 incidents were reported by schools across the province, which is up from 21 incidents reported during the same period in 2016.
Two of the 32 incidents are classified as major. An incident is classified as minor if the estimated cost of repairs is below R100 000 and the school's ability to function is not impacted in any way.
The two incidents that were reported as "major" were in the Metro South District and Metro North District.
At the school in Metro South, the school's workshop was targeted with perpetrators gaining access through the roof. Given that the school had an alarm system as well as holiday security, we are investigating how the incident took place. Various electronic tools, cutting machines and gas canisters were stolen.
In Metro North, two prefab classrooms were destroyed when perpetrators gutted two of the buildings, stealing cabling, lights and intercom speakers. The perpetrators also removed the tower that provides wifi to the community. The alarm system was triggered which is linked to the SAPS. SAPS however did not respond.
The estimated cost of damages thus far has come in at around R600 000 with only half of the estimates having been calculated. 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.
The "minor" incidents reported included theft of copper pipes, electrical cabling, computer equipment and school stationery.
At a school in the Metro East Education District, a school's feeding kitchen was targeted with perpetrators stealing the gas stove, 2 gas bottles, solar panels, non-perishable food and the aluminium window frames. They also turned the water on that ran continuously after the break in. It is simply deplorable to steal food out of the mouths of our learners. It is also completely irresponsible to damage water infrastructure, especially in the current drought.
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, windows and sporting equipment.
School vandalism not only comes at a cost to the Education Department but to 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 and the SAPS 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. I would also like to 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).