Cathy Labuschagne MPP
DA Western Cape spokesperson for Education I am outraged by the looting which took place at Heideveld Primary, as reported in “Die Burger” on 14 February 2013 (“Laerskool van ‘n kant af geplunder en gestroop”). Heideveld Primary began the new school year in prefabricated classrooms whilst a new school is being built. The DA in the Western Cape is saddened by the marauding of learners’ hopes and opportunity.
It is reported that on Sunday, 10 February 2013, about 200 members of the community started vandalising, destroying and looting the temporary classrooms. These violent destructive actions continued since then, with most of the damages and theft occurring during the night, whilst the Deputy Principal, Wilma Williams, is quoted as saying that looters even returned during school times.
Violence and destructive behaviour seems to be commonly accepted today – to such an extent that a community allowed its own members to vandalise, loot, and rob them of an important community resource. These actions are denying the learners of Heideveld Primary to their right to education.
Unfortunately, Heideveld Primary is not alone in their fight against vandals. Over the December/January school break, twenty four schools were vandalised in the Western Cape. Continuous expenditure on repairs are placing increased pressure on an already constrained budget, taking more and more money away from educating our learners.
Schools should be protected as a safe place where learning can take place unhindered, as a safe place where the youth of today are inspired for the future, and schools should be protected as a place of hope and opportunity.
I welcome the measures put in place by the Western Cape Education Department, the building contractors and the SAPS, in addressing the safety needs of the school and learners. I am, however, concerned about the varying factors which lead to this situation. I will be asking for feedback from the Education Department as to why continuous looting were allowed to take place, how it is impacting learning at the school, as well as how the department will prevent similar incidents from occurring at other schools where either construction, upgrading or maintenance could be putting a school at risk.
Communities must play a leading role in preventing such incidents. I call on communities, the people on the ground and particularly the School Governing Bodies, to take ownership of their role to help protect schools.