Thieves, vandals hit 38 schools in June holidays

Thieves stole the light cables in the ceiling of the girls’ bathroom at Saambou Primary School.

Bokmakierie and Saambou primary schools are two of the 38 schools in the province that reported incidents of burglary, vandalism or attempted burglary over the June holidays.

Sports, gardening, and maintenance equipment; fencing, building fixtures; lighting and electrical cables; IT equipment; stationery; kitchen equipment; and food for school meals, were among the items stolen, according to Education MEC Debbie Schäfer.

The thieves also stole the internet cables at the school.

Saambou Primary has had four break-ins in the past two months, according to principal Angelo Valentine.

On Friday July 16, thieves stole the floodlight cables in the administration block; on Sunday July 25, they broke the locks off the security gates and stole internet cable running from the office to the computer lab; on Thursday July 29, they stole wiring from the distribution board and the circuit breakers; and on Saturday July 31, they broke locks on the security gates for the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms, used a crowbar to force open the doors and then broke the ceilings to take lighting cables. They also cut the main water pipe in the boys’ bathroom.

“This is very disheartening,” said Mr Valentine. “I am trying to keep the morale of school high, but it is very difficult to do so when we are continuously falling victim to these break-ins.”

He said the Western Cape Education Department’s Safe Schools Programme had provided the school with emergency security for two weeks.

“In the meantime, we’ve bought new locks and fixed up the doors, but there is no funds for the electrical wiring, which we’ve made application for at the WCED,” he said.

Wiring was also cut and stolen

Manenberg police are investigating burglary and theft cases, but the perpetrators remain at large, according to the station’s spokesman, Captain Ian Bennett.

“We are urging the community to be our eyes and ears and report any selling of stolen goods to SAPS,” he said. “We urge residents not to buy anything. Our children’s education is being stolen and their futures hampered.”

Meanwhile, at Bokmakierie Primary School, burglars got in through the roof, on Thursday July 29, and stole electrical cables, according to Athlone police spokeswoman Sergeant Zita Norman. No arrests were made.

Thieves used a crowbar to open the door of the girls’ bathroom.

Ms Schäfer said that even when nothing had been stolen, the attempts to break in had still caused damage. The department had spent about R10 million repairing damages in the 2020/21 financial year.

“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.”

She pleaded with residents to report stolen goods.

“In some cases, wanton vandalism appears to be the motive – 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.”

With law enforcement stretched thin, the WCED needed the help of residents to protect schools, Ms Schäfer said.

Bokmakierie Primary School denied the Athlone News access to take pictures of the vandalism and declined to comment.

Anyone with information can report it to the police or the Safe Schools hotline at 0800 45 46 47.