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‘We are in the belly of vandalism,’ says Lesufi as criminals target schools

The portfolio committee on basic education yesterday conducted oversight visits to Gauteng schools that were vandalised during last month’s unrest.

Although scores of schools in parts of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal were disproportionately affected by last month’s unrest, vandalism of schools in South Africa has always been a major national problem.

According to Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi, although school vandalism was heightened by the unrest, schools have fallen prey to criminals around the country since the Covid lockdown started in March last year.

“It’s definitely not [only] related to the unrest, it is just that people took advantage of the situation. [Rondebult Secondary School] was broken into four times in one month,” he said.

“They even had the nerve to break in on the 25th and come back again on the 26th [of July], so you can clearly see that it was an act of criminality.”

WC education dept slams ‘self-sabotage’ after 38 schools hit by theft, vandalism

The portfolio committee on basic education yesterday conducted oversight visits to Gauteng schools that were vandalised during last month’s unrest.

The committee and MEC condemned the severe destruction and looting of schools and raised concerns about the increase in violence and vandalism in local schools.

Gauteng Education MEC, Panyaza Lesufi speaks to media as the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, and the Select Committee on Education, Technology,Sports, Arts and Culture undertook oversight visits to schools affected by the recent public unrest, 12 August 2021. Picture: Neil McCartney

“We are in the belly of vandalism and it’s very difficult to get out of that belly because these people are continuing to do wrong things at our schools,” Lesufi said.

“But I must thank the community because the perpetrators were apprehended by the members of community and handed over to police.”

Rondebult school governing body chair Michael Nkamana told the committee that one of the biggest problems in the area which was increasing the looting and vandalism within the school was unregistered scrapyards.

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“We have four unregistered scrapyards in our area, which means most of these people who steal things like taps and electricity cables from the school have a variety of options when they want to sell,” he said.

According to principal Lindiwe Mokoena’s report to the committee, some of the items stolen and vandalised included classroom ceilings, electrical wires, taps, smartboards, and food for the pupils’ feeding scheme.

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“The cost of damages to our school property and infrastructure, including the classrooms, amounts to at least R150 000,” she said.

“We have so far fixed the burglar doors and replaced the taps.”

Lesufi said although security was a crucial need in many schools, the department did not have enough money.

“We need law enforcement … to supplement and support us,” he said.

“Remember we’re a department of education. If I have a choice to employ a security guard and a teacher, what must I do?”

He said while their mandate was to run education, they should not be forced to choose between something that was outside their jurisdiction.

“Those that have a mandate to maintain peace and stability must count education in their plan and if they do that, we can work together,” he said.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said the damage at schools during the days of rioting and looting in Gauteng and KZN was more than R300 million, with at least 11 schools in Gauteng affected by the violence and 144 schools in KZN.

 

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