Our schools should be places where we “Enter to learn”
Last week I requested that the Department provide me with the statistics relating to burglary and vandalism incidents during the past June/July holiday.
The response was disappointing.
Over a period of 24 days (14 June 2019 – 9 June 2019) 42 schools were either burgled or vandalised. If we compare these statistics to the same period last year, the number of incidents rose from 27 to 42.
This is appalling.
I then asked for comparative statistics of the first half of the 2018 and 2019 school year, as well as for the 2018 school year as a whole. When I received these numbers I was even more disappointed.
From January 2018 to June 2018, 395 schools were burgled or vandalised.
In the first 6 months of 2019, 471 schools have either been burgled or vandalised.
For the period January to December 2018, 768 schools were targeted.
Therefore, on average, two schools are being burgled or vandalised EVERY DAY. It also indicates that the number of incidents reported this year is on the rise from 2018.
Incidents are not confined to the Metro. A school in George, for example has reported 10 incidents of burglary and vandalism this year. Other schools in Paarl, Langebaan and Laingsburg have reported 8 incidents.
This is a Province-wide problem – and one that WE ALL need to address.
Our schools should be places where we “Enter to learn” and not for criminal elements to “Enter to steal”.
As a Department we obviously have a role to play and are providing schools with security measures such as fencing, burglar bars, security gates and alarms linked to armed response, within very tight budget constraints.
The WCED also provides 24-hour security at selected schools. This is extremely costly and it’s not always possible to predict where or when an incident will occur.
However, schools with security guards are also victims of crime. Sadly, the guards themselves are also at risk. Of the 42 schools vandalised this past school holiday, – 24 schools had been provided with holiday security.
In May this year, a security guard at Woodlands Secondary was tragically murdered while he was stationed at the school. Three other schools have also reported assaults on security guards this year.
I am therefore appealing to all citizens, organisations and government departments to join forces against this scourge.
We are reliant on SAPS to ensure community stability and safety around our schools. Unfortunately, SAPS is severely under-resourced in this province. Therefore, the visibility of SAPS, as well as response times, is sometimes inadequate.
Our schools must continue to forge partnerships with local neighbourhood watches, armed response companies and to liaise with their local police stations to conduct additional periodic patrols around their schools.
The community themselves is, however, our best line of defence. While we are not asking people to physically stop a perpetrator from vandalising a school, we are simply asking that you make a call to your local police station to report it.
We thank those community members who have taken an active role in protecting their community schools.
When a perpetrator has, however, been caught, a working team between the WCED, DoCS: Watching Brief Unit and the NPA has been created to draft a victim impact statement and a witness testimony support structure with the purpose of ensuring appropriate support to witnesses and fast tracking the SAPS Cases which involve school crime.
As citizens of the Western Cape, and whether you have a child or children attending a school or not, take ownership of the schools in your area – as they are a crucial part of our communities.
Minister Schafer has prepared a soundbite on this – please whatsapp me for this.