School Vandalism: Communities Need to Take Ownership of Their Schools
During the December 2010/2011 holiday period, 27 schools reported cases of vandalism.
This does mark a decrease in the same period last year, whereby 37 schools were affected.
While I am pleased that the number of schools affected has decreased from 37 to 27, I am disappointed that there are elements in society who target our schools for their own personal gain.
Of the 27 schools that were targeted, only four cases exceeded an estimated cost of R10 000. The majority of cases were minor, with the efforts of the perpetrators being foiled by school alarm systems or security guards.
What is interesting to note is that in most cases, vandals did not target the main administration blocks or classrooms, and instead targeted the fencing around the school and toilet facilities, where perpetrators stole taps and copper piping.
The most costly case occurred at a school in Hanover Park, Crystal High, on the 22nd of December. At least 150 metres of the school fence was stolen, and a few windows were broken. The estimated cost of damages is around R80 000.
This is a big stretch of fence and the question remains - Where was the community when this occurred? Why had the police not been alerted?
As a Department we can only do so much to protect our schools from a security point of view. For instance, this holiday we put in place 24-hour security patrols at 130 identified schools and 240 schools received cluster patrols.
The fact that our school fences are now being targeted is beyond our control. This is where the community needs to play a role.
I can't emphasise enough how important it is to have community involvement in combating vandalism in our schools. Community ownership of a school is the best deterrent.
There have been numerous instances whereby the efforts by perpetrators have been foiled by the community simply alerting the police, and in some cases, even leading to arrests.
Criminals need to know that our schools are no-go areas and that both the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) and the relevant communities will not tolerate that our learners and educators suffer because of offenders destroying our schools.
In essence, schools are this province's most important assets, and if we can treat them as such, the message to criminals will soon be heard.
I am disappointed to learn that Vukani Primary in Phillipi-East was once again vandalised this holiday period. Last year, they suffered a similar fate. Despite the fact that the WCED placed security at the school, the schools' toilets were badly damaged, and a Grade R classroom was broken into.
At the end of last year, the school and the WCED safety resource officers, appealed to community members through a peaceful march to protect their school over the holiday period. It is sad that some bad elements chose to ignore this appeal and took it upon themselves to cause damage to this school.
I would like to add that in a few cases, it is evident that the vandalism incurred was by community members that simply wanted to get up to mischief. In one school in Lentegeur, 100 windows were smashed. In another school in Robertson, cement chairs were broken and strewn around the school's sports and tennis fields.
These cases will be treated no differently to others. Should these perpetrators get caught, and any other that has vandalised our schools, they will be punished to the full extent of the law.
I would like to appeal to community members to help protect our schools. Vandalism and theft in our schools is not only subject to the holiday period. We all need to be vigilant every day.
Spokesperson for Minister of Education, Donald Grant
Tel: 021 467 2377
Cell: 072 724 1422