When Thomas Wildschutt Senior Primary principal Charles Jansen walked into the school’s reception area on the first day of the school year his heart sank when he realised the school had been burgled and vandalised.
The reception area, office, book room and kitchen was broken into by gaining access through the roof – causing damage estimated at more than R50 000 and a huge mess.
Burglars also stole the bulk of stationery packs which were stored in the book room as well as books, paper, toilet paper and other items. Now pupils have to wait till later in the week for stationery to become available before they can properly start working on their curriculum.
Mr Charles suspects the burglary took place some time over the weekend between Friday January 6 and Sunday January 8 because when teachers were at the school on Friday everything in order.
“I suspect that it’s someone who either used to attend this school or someone who knows the school very well because they knew exactly where to break in to get what they needed.
“I came into school on the first day feeling energised and ready to take on the new year and when I opened the door and saw the mess I felt so discouraged and disappointed,” Mr Jansen said.
Mr Jansen added that the year is difficult enough as it is. “There are so many other issues including late registrations that need to be taken care of and the last thing I expected was for this to happen to us, said Mr Jansen.
“I want to say to those criminals that they are taking from a school and from children that already have very little resources. It’s the very same people from the community who steal from a school whose only goal is to serve the community. I am sickened to my core,” said Mr Jansen.
Mr Charles said he has a suspicion and received a tip-off that a shop near the school is selling the stolen stationery and some other items.
“I can’t understand how the community can accept and buy stolen goods, that hurts me the most. Those buying the stolen goods are encouraging the criminals and saying it’s okay for them to break into and vandalise our school,” he added.
A parent at the school, Bongi Samba, said it’s sad that criminals’ greed directly affects school children.
“Now pupils can’t do work because these criminals wanted to make a quick buck, probably to feed their drug addiction. Those who did this should be caught and put in jail for messing with our children’s education,” said Ms Samba.
Police spokesperson Captain FC Van Wyk said two intruders were spotted by a security guard and one of them was caught and arrested.
The other suspect is still at large.
Meanwhile Debbie Schäfer, MEC for Education released a statement, saying that incidents of burglary and vandalism has reduced year on year.
According to their records, the amount of schools burgled and vandalism has gradually decreased from 41 cases in the December/January holidays in 2014 to 17 in the recent December/January holidays.
During the recent holidays the WCED deployed additional security to schools that were identified as high risk.
“We are therefore pleased to see that the number of incidents has dropped once again, this time to 17. The figures suggest that extra security and vigilant communities are helping to reduce the incidents of vandalism at our schools,” said Ms Schäfer.
She said it also suggests that residents are actively looking after schools, in addition to the extra security personnel.
“I would like to thank all those who helped us. 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,” said Ms Schäfer.
The WCED is completing a cost analysis and so far the cost for repairs for 14 of the 17 schools has come in at just under R250 000.
“While I am pleased that the incidents were mostly classified as “minor”, we could better spend these funds on improving the quality of education in schools. At the end of the day, vandalism represents theft from our pupils,” she added.
Residents are urged to report any suspicious behaviour or activities near or at schools to the police or to call the Safe Schools hotline on 0800 45 46 47.