School Burglary and Vandalism is a not a fight that we can tackle alone
Despite increased security measures at schools across the province during the December holiday period, perpetrators still continue to target our schools.
Over the December holiday period, a total of 27 incidents were reported by schools across the province, which is down from 33 incidents reported during the same period in 2017.
None of the incidents are classified as major, but some incidents are costing the department over R50 000. 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.
At a Cape Winelands School, perpetrators stole 9 metres of fencing. How are we supposed to protect our learners from outside elements when school fences are being carried away bit by bit? I am especially calling on communities to report any suspicious behaviour around our schools - it is impossible that the perpetrators can remove 9 metres of fencing without being seen.
At a Metro Central school, perpetrators targeted a feeding kitchen stealing over 100kgs of food including rice, maize meal, beans and soya. They also stole copper taps and storage containers. It is simply deplorable to steal food out of the mouths of our learners. It is also completely irresponsible to damage water infrastructure, given the drought we have been through over the last few years.
At another Metro Central school, perpetrators gained access via the roof, damaging the roof and ceiling. The perpetrators ripped out wiring damaging the school intercom system, and stealing ICT equipment from the admin block.
The "minor" incidents reported included theft of copper pipes, electrical cabling, computer equipment and school stationery.
In some incidents, perpetrators targeted schools simply to destroy property and left without stealing anything. This blatant destruction is unacceptable.
Damage to classrooms, school halls and computer labs included theft of and damage to light fittings, windows and sporting equipment.
The estimated cost of damages thus far has come in at around R400 000 with only three quarters of the estimates having been calculated. It is devastating that people are prepared to do this to schools when we know the desperate needs in education and the inadequacy of our budget to cope with them.
We should be using these funds to build new schools, improve existing schools, appoint additional teachers and generally improve opportunities for children.
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. Tackling the scourge of burglary and vandalism at Western Cape schools is not a fight that we can tackle alone. 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.
I am urging community members to be please 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).