Burglars preying on a Hanover Park school have caused thousands of rand in damage that could set back teaching.
Parkfields Primary School has more than 870 pupils, many of them coming from homes hit hard by poverty and other social ills. In the past three months, it has had five break-ins, and yet police say the school is not in a crime hot spot.
According to deputy principal Gail Wyngaard, the first two burglaries took place on Sunday June 21 and Monday June 22. Newly fitted lights were stolen from two classrooms and ceiling boards badly damaged.
The intruders cut the locks on the junior and senior boys’ toilets, where they broke the basins and pulled out taps and pipes. The pupils can no longer use the facilities.
To add to the school’s misery, strong winds tore the roofs off four classrooms over the stormy July 11 and 12 weekend.
Then the burglars struck again on Wednesday July 15, Sunday July 26 and Tuesday August 4.
They got in through the classrooms’ wrecked roofs and ceilings and took lights and electrical fittings, teaching and learning aids and stationery, all worth about
R45 000, excluding the damage.
“All burglaries have been reported to Safer Schools as well as SAPS,” Ms Wyngaard said.
“Our fear is that these intruders will continue to burgle our school while access through these damaged roofs remains available. Added to this, is the amount of damage these classrooms, as well as the classrooms below them, have been subjected to following the heavy rains of the long weekend of the 8th, 9th and 10th of August.”
The prediction of more heavy rains had stalled repairs, she said.
“Another serious concern is that these repairs will not be completed in time for us to receive all our learners. Most of our learners are expected to return on the 24th and 31st of August.
“We appeal to members of the community to report any trespassers seen on the school grounds after hours. Furthermore, we encourage you to report any persons trying to sell any of the items taken from the school’s premises.”
Ward councillor, Antonio van der Rheede said he would speak to the authorities about improving security at the school.
He also urged the school’s neighbours to report any suspicious activity.
“In an area like Hanover Park, it would be the same few guys breaking in every time so someone should know something. If this is a hot-spot area for break-ins then SAPS should increase their presence in the area.
“I will also contact the Newfields neighbourhood watch to keep an eye on the school during their patrols. Most schools in areas like these have a stay-in caretaker to have someone present at school at all times,” he said.
Philippi police station spokesman Captain Lance Goliath said they deployed officers according to crime patterns, with more officers going to hot spots in the precinct. The area around the school wasn’t considered a hot spot, he said.
“All schools are being visited randomly. We appeal to the public to come forward with information to assist us,” he said.