PE school fears further vandalism and theft during holidays

Toilets at Gertrude Shope Primary School in Port Elizabeth have been repeatedly vandalised by criminals. The school says it can’t afford to hire security guards to keep the premises safe during holidays, at night and on weekends.
Toilets at Gertrude Shope Primary School in Port Elizabeth have been repeatedly vandalised by criminals. The school says it can’t afford to hire security guards to keep the premises safe during holidays, at night and on weekends.
Image: GroundUp/Mkhuseli Sizani

Vandalism and theft is costing Gertrude Shope Primary School in Port Elizabeth thousands of rand. As schools are expected to close for the holidays soon, teachers and parents fear their school will be ransacked by criminals.

The school governing body (SGB) has asked the education department to provide security guards to patrol the premises at night, but the department says its up to the school to set its own funds aside for this expense.

“Every time we close, our school is damaged. The problem is during the holidays, weekends and at night. When we close, we have to carry all the furniture from our grade R side and bring it into our main school building out of fear of the vandals,” said principal Thembeka Ngcape.

Gertrude Shope Primary is situated in the township of Govan Mbeki and has 936 pupils. Ngcape said each year they spend most of their budget on repairs to doors, windows, a fence and electrical wiring.

“Eight of 27 classrooms in our main school building do not have electricity. Thugs ripped out the plugs, cables and lights. There are huge holes in the fence,” she said.

Ngcape said the grade R block, situated 300m from the main school building, was in a very bad state.

“Toilets and washing basins have been stolen. The whole grade R block has no electricity. Teachers have to carry water in 25 litres [buckets] to flush the toilets,” she said.

Ngcape said they have made several appeals to the Eastern Cape department of education and the community to help keep the school safe.

SGB chairperson Vuyolwethu Siwo said in June this year, the school spent R89,000 repairing toilets and an additional R130,000 on electric repairs. Since then, 10 more classes were vandalised and are in need of repairs.

“We appeal to the department of education to help us with night security guards. We only have a guard during school hours,” he said.

Siwo said the community also has a role to play in ensuring the school remains a safe space.

He said they have “lost hope in the KwaDwesi police station, who don’t come when we call them” after no progress was made on any of the cases they reported.

In response, Captain Andre Beegte said: “Normally vandalism cases are archived because there are no witnesses or matches on fingerprints.”

Education department spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima said the SGB “has a right to employ guards and then write to the department to request reimbursement”.

This article was first published by GroundUp.

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