Thieves have targeted Easter Peak Primary School in Manenberg eight times this year, leaving it with limited ablution facilities, almost no electricity, damaged ceilings and flooded classrooms.
Seven of the eight break-ins took place within the space of a month — between Monday May 8 and Monday June 5.
Principal Ebrahim Joseph said they were at their wits’ end. He has appealed to the community to help them stop the break-ins.
The cost of the damage caused by the thieves is much more than the value of the items they stole.
“Having to come to school under these circumstances is very demoralising for the teachers. The exams are starting and some of our classrooms are dark, because of a lack of electricity. We have 725 pupils, and, at the moment, we have to operate on skeletal ablution facilities. The school’s finances are tight and the repairs will take a while to complete.
“This is ridiculous. Our children are already deprived of so much – they have limited resources in the classroom. We don’t have a sports field or a swimming pool, like some affluent schools. Now we have to use money – which was supposed to be spent on them – to do emergency repairs. There is no copper at this school. Everything is plastic, and yet they target our school. The saddest part is that it is people from the community doing this, and some of their family members attend school here. We really need the community’s support. We cannot do this alone,” Mr Joseph said.
Most of the break-ins happen over weekends. The School Governing Body (SGB) used funds to hire extra security, and the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) provided 24-hour security at weekends.
WCED spokeswoman Millicent Merton said it was too soon to assess the amount of damage caused, but Mr Joseph said he won’t be surprised if it was more than R200 000.
“Minor damage will be fixed as soon as possible, while procurement procedures will have to be followed for any major repairs,” Ms Merton said.
In the latest break-in, two classrooms were flooded when the taps in the classrooms were stolen. The children’s books and profiles and the teachers’ administration files were all soaked. The senior girls’ and boys’ toilets were flooded, and so badly damaged they can’t be used.
Manenberg SAPS spokesman Captain Ian Bennett said police patrolled the area, but a campaign was needed to highlight the scourge. “The community must also play their part. They play a huge role. It is the youngsters from around there who do it. We are aware of the situation at Easter Peak, and we are putting in extra patrols, but access to the school is another thing.
“What boggles my mind is that the school is situated smack bang in the heart of the community and is surrounded by houses. Despite this, nobody seems to see anything, and nobody is willing to make statements. The community must take ownership and help us by playing a positive and active role,” Captain Bennett said.
Ward 46 councillor Aslam Cassiem met with Mr Joseph to discuss the school’s concerns. Mr Cassiem said the school has asked for a formation of street committees, as there was no neighourhood watch active in that area.
“The City of Cape Town has a project known as the Women in Rental Stock, and they are basically serving the community like surrogate mothers.
“They can see to the outside of the school, and assist with the children,” Mr Cassiem said.
Vanchasco Peters, co-ordinator of the Easter Peak Welfare and Safety Forum, said his organisation was registering their neighbourhood watch. In the meantime, Mr Peters, who is also the chairperson of Sector 2A of the Manenberg Community Police Forum (CPF), said an emergency meeting had been held with the community on Monday June 12, to deal with the school’s concerns.
“I have met with the principal, and we are looking at doing something to curb these break-ins. However, what is so sad for me, is that the residents will give detectives the names of the people who do the these illegal acts, but when it comes to going to court to testify, then they become silent. Then they want to blame the police or the judiciary and say they are not doing their jobs. That is why we are in this state that we are in because the community feels intimidated by gangsters,” Mr Peters said.