R1 million damages

NABEELAH MOHEDEEN

Five classrooms were broken into at Arcadia High school in Bonteheuwel, after the much-anticipated delivery of e-learning materials and resulting in R1 million in damages.

The incident was reported to the Education Department’s Safe Schools division around 6am on Monday April 25. Among the items stolen were whiteboard cables, two door handles, a projector, and some light fittings.

The burglars also stole taps and copper piping, resulting in the upstairs classrooms being flooded.

“The water seeped through the wooden floor and penetrated the concrete ceilings of the two computer labs on the ground floor.

“In other classrooms, light fittings were torn from the ceiling and electric wiring of a smartboard was removed,” said Education MEC Debbie Schäfer.

Both computer rooms at the school were also badly damaged and teachers tried to save some of the computer equipment when they arrived at school on the Monday.

According to Captain Louw from Bishop Lavis police station, the burglars entered the classroom through the ceiling.

“Usually people using drugs break into the school to steal items and sell them to buy drugs. The ceiling of the classroom was damaged which is how the burglars gained entry to the classroom. A case of burglary at the school has been opened and no arrests have been made. A possibility of gang relation is being investigated,” said Captain Louw.

The school, which has already been earmarked by the Education Department for better access control, including the installation of stone guards and burglar bars during the course of this year, currently has no access control measures in place. Stone guards are sheets of hard plastic placed in front of windows so that they can’t be smashed by stones or bricks hurled at them.

In the light of the recent break-in, however, said Ms Schäfer, the security upgrades at the school would be prioritised.

“We are trying to improve education opportunities for learners in our poor communities, and a few thieves are prejudicing the opportunities of hundreds of learners. Contingency plans have been put in place to limit disruption to teaching and learning time. Catch up programmes will be instituted for any work that was missed yesterday,” she said.

A similar incident occurred a week before at Arcadia Primary School also in Bonteheuwel, where stationary, light bulbs, reams of photocopy paper, and the metal strip from the front of some of the chalkboards had been stolen.

Principal Gavin van der Speck, said the school had had more than 20 break-ins since January, during which stationary to the value of R20 000 had been stolen. The incident at Arcadia Primary had occurred around 2am on Tuesday April 19, when a security guard on the schools premises saw a man on the roof of the school.

“The main problem is that they break in to the school through the windows. They use the fire extinguisher to mess up the classrooms and then they continue to vandalise the class. We haven’t replaced anything because we know it will happen again,” said Mr Van der Speck.

He added that the education department had indicated that it would not be paying for any stone guards or burglar bars but would erect a fence around the school premises.

Due to the ongoing violence in the area, Mr Van der Speck said, it was difficult to host events to raise funds for the burglar bars because there was shooting in the area day and night, which made it difficult for people to come out and support the school. “Our teachers are stressed out. When they come to school in the morning, they see the condition of their classrooms and it creates a negative impact on the pupils’ learning.”

Ms Schäfer said Bonteheuwel has been plagued by a flare up of gangsterism and violence over the past couple of weeks.

“Our schools are meant to be places of safety and solace. I therefore condemn this act in the strongest terms. The ongoing scourge of burglary and vandalism of our schools simply has to stop. As a department we simply cannot afford to keep repairing and replacing what is stolen or vandalised,” she added.

She also urged scrap and second-hand traders not to purchase materials that they suspect have been stolen, or they would be aiding in the theft of resources meant to benefit pupils.

Any suspicious behaviour around schools can be reported to the South African Police Service or our Safe School