South Africa: Parents Protest After School Hit By Spate of Robberies

Parents picketed outside Nomsa Maphingwane Primary school in Khayelitsha's Mandela Park on Monday morning after the school was hit by a spate of robberies.

The last robbery was on Thursday. According to Bronagh Hammond, spokesperson for the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), three people approached the caretaker at the front gate of the school. "They requested to speak to an educator. The caretaker took them to the reception area. The three men then took out guns and went into the staff room where some educators were having a meeting. They proceeded to rob the educators of some of their possessions."

Four laptops, as well as wallets, cell phones and bags were stolen during the robbery.

Siziwe Thontsi said his child returned home with one shoe when he ran away from the robbery. "Our children are not safe," said Thontsi. "My child does not want to come to school anymore."

School governing body (SGB) member Patricia Bosman expressed frustration with the WCED. She complained that each time the department sends different officials to the school and they have to start putting across their concerns from the beginning.

"We want security placed here 24-hours, not only when school is closed," she said. She said the school fence, erected in 1991, needs to be changed.

The CCTV cameras at the school are no longer working after a monitor was stolen during another robbery. The spikes on the school fence are blunt and rusty.

Hammond said the WCED will discuss the school's security measures.

On Tuesday, Provincial MEC for Education Debbie Schäfer released statistics on school burglaries that she described as "appalling". She said that between 14 June and 9 July (the holiday period), 42 schools were either burgled or vandalised, up from 27 during the same period last year.

She stated that from January to June 2018, 395 schools were burgled or vandalised. During the same period this year, the number rose to 471.

Incidents are not confined to Cape Town, the MEC wrote. "A school in George, for example has reported ten incidents of burglary and vandalism this year. Other schools in Paarl, Langebaan and Laingsburg have reported eight incidents."

She said the department provides security measures such as fences, burglar bars, gates and alarms. "The WCED also provides 24-hour security at selected schools." But she warned this was very costly within "very tight budget constraints".

Moreover 24 of the 42 schools robbed during the holidays had been provided with security guards.

She noted that in May a security guard at Woodlands Secondary was murdered while he was stationed at the school. "Three other schools have also reported assaults on security guards this year."

"I am therefore appealing to all citizens, organisations and government departments to join forces against this scourge," she pleaded. Schäfer also pointed out that SAPS was under resourced. "Therefore, the visibility of SAPS, as well as response times, is sometimes inadequate."

With GroundUp staff.

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