The Western Cape Education Department has reiterated its call to communities to take ownership of schools by protecting them following incidents of vandalism.
The call comes after 38 schools in the province 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,” MEC Debbie Schäfer said.
Among the 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 MEC said attempts by the criminals to gain access to a school property, caused damage to infrastructure.
She noted that in some cases, wanton vandalism appears to be the motive, and 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. 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,” Schäfer said.
R10 million spent on repairs
Schäfer added that while the total cost of repairs and replacing stolen goods is still being assessed, the department has 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,” the MEC said.
The public is urged to report any suspicious activity in the vicinity of schools to the police, or the Safe Schools hotline on 0800 45 46 47.