South Africa: A 'Disheartening' 183 Schools Targeted Since Start of Lockdown - Minister Angie Motshekga

A police officer adjusts a colleague’s mask (file photo).

Since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown, 183 schools have been vandalised across South Africa, according to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. In some cases, equipment was stolen and in others, entire schools were burnt down.

"It is quite disheartening that criminal elements in our communities could destroy the infrastructure of their own children with such apparent impunity," Motshekga said in a statement.

Schools closed on 18 March when President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster. A lockdown was put in place to ensure that as many people as possible stay home to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Pupils were given work to complete at home amid uncertainty over when schools would be able to reopen.

However, an unforeseen outcome of this was that schools were targeted by vandals, burglars and arsonists.

The latest was a break-in at eThekwini Primary School on Sunday. Three laptops, a microwave oven and 50 e-readers were stolen.

Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu likened the break-on to stealing the future of the youth.

Police Minister Bheki Cele previously commented that schools situated close to shebeens seemed to be targeted.

Another consequence of the school closures was that there were concerns over whether children who received meals at school would still be fed.

In an open letter to Motshekga, Equal Education asked for clarity on "the criteria of selection of distribution points as well as safety and accessibility of distribution points" for food for the children.

In the meantime, Motshekga stated on Monday that she was in contact with Cele and with the help of intelligence forces, was following leads for the arrest of those who damaged schools.

She said the schools targeted included 55 in Gauteng, 72 in Mpumalanga and seven in the North West and 2 in KZN.

The police have arrested 41 people already for burglaries and vandalism at schools since March.

Most already appeared in court after they were charged with arson and business burglary amongst other crimes.

Seventeen were arrested in Johannesburg (including Soweto), nine in Tshwane, seven in Sedibeng, four in Ekurhuleni and another four on the West Rand.

These arrests follow a team established by Gauteng police commissioner Lieutenant General Elias Mawela.

"I am pleased with the progress made by the team so far and I believe more suspects will be arrested soon. We are appealing to the community to work with the police in exposing those with intentions of depriving our children a better education in a conducive learning environment" said Mawela.

Source: News24

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