38 schools fall victim to criminals during July school holidays
38 Western Cape schools have reported incidents of vandalism, burglary, or attempted burglary, over the July school holidays. I am extremely disappointed that our schools have once again been targeted by ruthless criminals while closed for the holidays. Our schools are already operating in difficult circumstances, and the last thing they need is to be further disrupted by damages and theft.
Items stolen over the holidays included sports equipment, gardening and maintenance equipment, fencing, building fixtures, lighting and electrical cables, IT equipment, stationery, kitchen equipment, and food for school meals. Even where nothing was stolen, the attempts by these criminals to gain access to a school property caused damage to infrastructure.
Someone, somewhere, is going to be offered the goods stolen from our schools for sale. If this happens, please report it immediately. We had an incident last year when a member of the public reported seeing cans meant for use in the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) at a shop, which led to a speedy arrest.
In some cases, wanton vandalism appears to be the motive – instead of stealing anything, the perpetrators simply destroyed anything from furniture to bathroom fixtures. These are pointless and malicious acts, with our children on the losing end as a result. To damage your local school is self-sabotage.
While the total cost of repairs and replacing stolen goods is still being assessed, the Department spent an estimated R10 million repairing damages in the 2020/21 financial year – money that could have been spent on supporting our schools.
Unfortunately, one of the incidents this holiday period resulted in the death of a security guard who confronted perpetrators. We offer our deepest condolences to his family and friends, and the school community. The district office has also offered counselling support to the school.
Let us talk about “our school”
With SAPS and law enforcement stretched as they are, we really need communities to take ownership of their schools and protect them. I would like to share a comment made by one of the principals I met in Khayelitsha in the past week, which reinforces what we have seen over a number of years: schools that have a strong relationship with their surrounding communities are better protected than those that do not. He noted that the residents of the area surrounding a school should not refer to “that school”, but rather to “our school”.
Let us all talk about “our school” from now on as we engage in conversations with our peers and neighbours.
Let us change the mindsets of those that live around us. The reality is that it is “our school” – a community asset that we should all seek to protect.
I once again urge the public to report any suspicious activity in the vicinity of schools to SAPS or the Safe Schools hotline (0800 45 46 47) immediately.