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School burglars ‘steal opportunities away from children’, cost state millions

2017-07-26 18:54

At least 15 schools were burgled and vandalised in the Western Cape during the winter holidays.

This was revealed by the province’s education MEC, Debbie Schäfer, this week.

Schäfer said R30 million had been set aside for emergency repairs this financial year. This was despite that there were fewer damages this year than the previous year when 21 schools were affected.

Last year, her department allocated R10 million for emergency school repairs.

In most cases, perpetrators broke into classrooms and vandalised the interior, breaking windows and doors, but did not steal school property.

Perpetrators also targeted ablution blocks and stole basins, flush mechanisms, copper wiring and pipes.

Schäfer said a drop in burglaries and vandalism this year suggested that local communities were actively looking after schools, in addition to the department’s security measures.

“We have found that the safest schools are those where local citizens help to look after the properties. 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.”

Department spokesperson Jessica Shelver said cases were reported to the police for investigation.

Unfortunately, despite measures taken by the department, as well as school communities, some of our schools still were vandalism and burgled during the school holiday, said Schäfer .

She said the worst case was in Metro East.

“I was very disappointed to hear that a school was targeted for its ICT hardware. Burglars broke into the computer lab and made away with 27 full computers, the main server and a data projector. The cost to repair and replace what was damaged or stolen is estimated at about R350 000. As a government we are investing heavily in ICT to ensure that our learners are better prepared for the 21st century as well as improving their literacy and numeracy rates. The burglars are stealing opportunities away from our children,” Schäfer said.

Due to security reasons she would not name the school but revealed it was in Khayelitsha.

She appealed to anyone with information to report it to police immediately.

However, the highest number of incidents was reported in the Metro Central Education District with four incidents of burglary and vandalism.

The Cape Winelands and Metro North Districts each reported three incidents.

One school in Metro North was targeted twice.

In the first occurrence, burglars forcefully entered four classrooms as well as the feeding scheme storeroom and ablutions.

Doors were damaged in each of these rooms to gain entry and food was stolen from the feeding scheme room, flush valves and piping from the ablution block, and computer towers and a radio were taken from the classroom.

In the second occurrence, burglars gained entry to seven classrooms, which were badly vandalised.

Schäfer said the school had an alarm system but the alarm company indicated that the alarm was not activated by the trespassers.

“We are investigating and our safe school directorate will liaise with the school,” she said.

The Eden and Karoo District reported two incidents. Metro East, Metro South and Overberg each reported one incident.

Schäfer thanked police and employees working at Safe Schools, a call centre set up by the department for members of the public to file complaints and reports, for the role they played in the decline of incidents this year.

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December 9 2018