Incidents of burglary and vandalism during winter school holidays concerning
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 this was the case when schools opened last week.
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.
Crime is fluid and crime prevention is not always within our control. 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.
27 schools reported incidents of burglary and vandalism during the 2018 winter holiday period. This is the same as the figure from last year at the same time.
One case was reported as major while the remaining 26 cases were classified as minor. While we note that 1 case was classified as major, another "minor" case is costing the department over R60 000 to repair and replace what was damaged or stolen. This is a large amount of money that could better be spent on improving education opportunities for the learners at the school.
The Cape Winelands District reported the highest number of cases with 7 schools reporting incidents of burglary or vandalism.
Six Metro Central and six Metro South Schools reported incidents, while three schools in the Eden and Karoo District and three schools in the Metro East District reported incidents.
One school in each of the Metro North and the Overberg Districts reported incidents.
The most severe case was in Metro East. Perpetrators broke into the school at around 8am, an hour after the night shift security had left the school. The perpetrators gained access by breaking two burglar prevention doors with an axe. The items that were stolen are: 2 full computers, 2 printers with scanners, a photocopy machine, a microwave, a two burner stove, an electric kettle, a fax machine, 4 electric heaters, and 2 cell phones.
At another Metro East School, perpetrators gained access to the administration block of the school by breaking through the safety door. ICT equipment was stolen.
In other cases, perpetrators stole CCTV cameras and kitchen equipment. Perpetrators also targeted ablutions and stole basins, flush mechanisms, copper wiring and pipes from schools.
Most incidents reported occurred during the day. I therefore urge community members to be extra vigilant during the day time and 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.
A school is a community asset. Everyone should help protect schools as it is fundamental to the future of our children.
It is absolutely unacceptable that we have to tolerate this ongoing destruction of our facilities that is forcing us to divert precious, scarce resources that could be better used to improve education. It is time that people understand that government does not have unlimited resources to simply replace items that are stolen or vandalised.
In addition, to steal equipment such as CCTV cameras, that are designed to keep our staff and learners safe, is unconscionable.
We shall be following these cases and in the event that perpetrators are arrested and found guilty, we shall make input to the court in aggravation of sentence, requesting the maximum possible penalty.
(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).