More burglary woes at Umnqophiso

2018-03-29 06:00
One of the damaged classrooms of Umnqophiso Primary School in Lwandle.PHOTOS: MZWANELE MKALIPI

One of the damaged classrooms of Umnqophiso Primary School in Lwandle.PHOTOS: MZWANELE MKALIPI

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A local school has again been targeted by brazen criminals.

Thieves gained entrance to the building through the ceiling at Umnqophiso Primary School, and stole items worth about R60 000 on Wednesday 21 March.

This is a second time the school has fallen victim to unscrupulous criminals this month, following another burglary on Monday 5 March, which saw items worth R30 000 stolen as well as damage to the school’s property.

Furthermore, the school has experienced a significantly high number of burglaries this year, with teachers now appealing for help from Lwandle residents.

Deputy principal Ntobeko Ndabula told City Vision he has lost count of the number of times the school has been burgled this year.

“Ever since school reopened for the academic year, the school has been vandalised on a number of occasions,” he said. “In some instances we lost electrical appliances, doors, copper, Wi-Fi wires have been cutoff and now they damaged the interactive white board.

“We now have no internet at school and this has inconvenienced us a great deal.”

Ndabula called on the community to take ownership of the school. He said: “We need the community to protect this institution. We have held meetings with parents, who were shocked to hear about these incidents.

“We appeal to residents to look after the school and stop buying stolen goods. If people continue to buy stolen goods, they are indirectly supporting the vandalism of our school.”

Jessica Shelver, provincial education department spokesperson, confirmed the Safe Schools Call Centre received a report from the school on Wednesday 7 March. “The school safety officer reported that the school was burgled on 5 March,” she related.

“The perpetrators entered the ceiling to access four classrooms and the feeding scheme kitchen. Electrical wires, the DB board, Wi-Fi wires, ceiling and roof were damaged. Four pots and a geyser with fittings were stolen.”

According to Shelver, the school has an alarm system linked to armed response company ADT. “But the alarm covers only certain sections of the school, with the targeted classrooms not being covered,” she pointed out.

“The estimated costs of the damages and losses of the 5 March burglary amount to R30 000. The matter was reported to Lwandle police.”

Shelver further said the department’s Safe Schools Directorate previously supported the school with holiday security, burglar bars and stone guards, and this matter was again referred to the Safe Schools coordinator, who recently visited the school. “Emergency security was granted and a security guard was stationed at the school,” Shelver said.

On the most recent burglary, Shelver said the principal reported that on arrival at school on Thursday 22 March it was discovered four classrooms had been burgled.

“The roof was damaged to gain entry to the four targeted classrooms,” she said. “Electrical wires were removed, ceilings were damaged and the white board in one classroom was damaged.

“The school followed up with the security company and is awaiting its report. Estimated costs of damages are around R60 000 and the matter was reported to Lwandle police.”

Shelver implored the community to take a keen interest in protecting the school for the benefit of its current and future learners.

“School vandalism not only comes at a cost to the department, but to the learners and the community as well,” she pointed out. “While we can and do try to safeguard our schools with additional security measures, we cannot win the fight against school burglary and vandalism without community support as schools, given their extensive physical infrastructure, are very difficult areas to secure.

“A school is a community asset. Everyone should help protect schools as it is fundamental to the future of our children.”

Sergeant Mthokozisi Gama, Lwandle police spokesperson, says the school has reported seven cases of burglary over the past six months.

“In none of the cases opened has any arrest been made thus far,” he said. “Police also request that anyone who may have information leading to the arrest of the suspects involved kindly contact Lwandle police on 021 845 2060.”

Gama also appealed to the community to refrain from buying stolen property, as it constitutes a criminal act, and any individual found with stolen property will be prosecuted as the law dictates.

“We also appeal to the community to look after the school premises at all times and report individuals stealing from the school,” he said.

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