Absence of guards allows thugs in Limpopo free rein to schools

Residents walk through debris of burnt down Ratjeke Primary School in GaRatjeke village, near Giyani, in Limpopo./ PETER RAMOTHWALA
Residents walk through debris of burnt down Ratjeke Primary School in GaRatjeke village, near Giyani, in Limpopo./ PETER RAMOTHWALA

The absence of security guards in some of the schools has been blamed for over 70 burglaries in Limpopo since the start of the lockdown.

This is according to teachers union which says its members will have difficulties executing their duties in the absence of school equipment.

The South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) provincial secretary Sowell Tjebane said they have been calling for the department of education to place security guards in every school in the province.

"We really condemn this thuggish behaviour; our schools are targeted for theft of equipment such as computers, and for food and stationery. We now urge the department to consider our point and deploy security guards in all the schools," Tjebane said.

More than 400 schools have been broken into nationally since the start of the lockdown.

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga's office last week said 397 schools had been vandalised or burgled, and Mpumalanga had emerged as the hardest-hit province.

Tjebane also called on communities to guard the schools against criminals.

Limpopo education spokeswoman Tidimalo Chuene said options to avail security guards were being explored.

Mbekwana High School in N'wamitwa outside Tzaneen was broken into and criminals stole a soccer team kit worth R6,000.

Chuene said the department has recorded 78 incidents of burglaries in schools since the beginning of the lockdown.

"Electronics and National School Nutrition Programme food supplies still top the list of items stolen. The list also includes building and cleaning materials, toys, mattresses, lawnmowers, sports equipment and borehole pumps," Chuene said.

"All recorded incidents have been reported to the South African Police Service.

"The department welcomes the decision by the police to escalate the matter for reinforced intervention from safety and security agencies and increase patrol around schools," she added.

Police spokesman Brig Motlafela Mojapelo said at Mbekwana, police discovered that the perpetrators broke the doors' locks and chains to gain access to the storeroom.

The suspects managed to steal the boys soccer kit, 13 pairs of soccer boots and two soccer balls," Mojapelo said.

Police said they were confident they were making progress in the school burglaries following the arrest of at least 13 suspects.

"The Mankweng cluster police arrested seven suspects for allegedly breaking into school premises and houses in Sekgosese and Sebayeng areas.

"Five suspects were previously arrested in Maake policing area and one in Northam. In total, 13 suspects have so far been arrested around the province on similar cases."

The ANC in the Vhembe region said it had learnt with shock that 15 schools have been broken into and some vandalised.

Party regional secretary Anderson Mudunungu said there was a high vandalism and burglary of school infrastructure in the Vhembe region.

"So far, 15 schools have been vandalised and items like groceries, computers and other equipment were stolen.

"All the ANC structures and other stakeholders are directed to work together with schools governing body, and other community structures to secure these public institutions," Mudunungu said.

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