MEC Schafer pleased that incidents of burglary and vandalism are reducing year on year

By Minister Debbie Schäfer, Western Cape Minister of Education:

At the start of every school year, one of my main concerns is that teachers and learners will arrive at a school that has been badly vandalised or burgled during the December school holiday.

For this reason, during the December 2015/ January 2016 School holiday period, the WCED deployed additional security to schools that were identified as high risk.

The WCED arranged additional security at 413 schools during the December/January holiday. These measures included patrols at specific schools and clusters of schools.

Incidents of Burglary and Vandalism reported, year on year:

Period Incidents Reported Percentage decrease year on year
Dec 2013 / Jan 2014 41  
Dec 2014 / Jan 2015 32 22%
Dec 2015 / Jan 2016 21 34.4%

We are therefore pleased to see that the number of incidents has dropped significantly once again, this time by 34.4% from last year.

This suggests that local communities are actively looking after schools, in addition to our security measures.

We have found that the safest schools are those where local citizens help to look after the properties.

Unfortunately, despite measures taken by the WCED, as well as school communities, some of our schools still fell victim to vandalism and burglaries during the school holiday.

Of the 21 incidents reported, the Metro Central Education District reported the highest number of incidents in the Province, with 8 incidents of burglary and vandalism.

Only 1 case has been classified as ‘major’, and 20 cases have been classified as ‘minor’.

It is disheartening to hear that one of our excellent schools of skill was burgled and vandalised during the holidays. This school is one of 18 in the province that provides skills training for our learners who cannot or do not wish to follow a purely academic educational pathway.

In most cases, perpetrators broke into the school classrooms and vandalised the interior, breaking windows and doors, yet stealing nothing. Perpetrators also stole copper wiring and pipes from schools.

They also stole water pipes and vandalised the ablution block at a school in Mossel Bay. School could not start on time there yesterday as a result.

The cost to repair and replace the damaged and stolen goods is extensive. This comes at a huge cost to the WCED and a school serving one of our poorer communities.

What has angered me the most is that the perpetrators again targeted a kitchen that forms part of our feeding scheme. They stole gas cylinders, heaters, a kettle, as well as pots and pans. Perpetrators also broke into a school library, destroying the facility and stealing computer wires, books and stationary.

The WCED is completing a cost analysis. So far, the cost for repairs for just over half of the schools has come in at just under R800 000.

The WCED spends about R10 million a year on emergency repairs for damage resulting from major incidents of vandalism.

The department and schools could better spend these funds on improving the quality of education in schools. At the end of the day, vandalism represents theft from our learners.

The co-operation of the community is essential in order to combat learner vandalism and to create a safe school environment that promotes teaching and learning. We urge community members to be extra vigilant throughout the year and to immediately report any suspicious behavior or activities that occur within the vicinity of their schools.

The figures suggest that extra security and vigilant communities are helping to reduce the incidence of vandalism at our most important asses, our schools.

It is important for communities to take ownership of the schools in their area and realise that they have an important role to play in protecting their community’s assets.

The co-operation of the community is essential in order to combat learner vandalism and to create a safe school environment that promotes teaching and learning. We urge community members to be extra vigilant throughout the year and to immediately report any suspicious behavior or activities that occur within the vicinity of their schools to report this immediately.

I would like to thank those who helped us.

I must acknowledge the continuous decline in reported incidents year on year, and for this I would like to thank Safe Schools, Metro Police, SAPS and members of the community for their sustained efforts in assisting us in putting an end to vandalism and burglary in our schools.

It is totally iniquitous that we have to tolerate this ongoing destruction of our facilities that is forcing us to divert much needed resources that could be better used to improve education.

(Please note: The WCED does not identify the names of schools that have been affected by burglary and vandalism. In many cases, the damages caused by the perpetrators can result in a security threat or breach. Therefore, it is our policy to not announce the names).