Protect us, or else...

2015-06-23 06:00
Factreton parents march to an alleged burglar’s house to warn him that they are aware that he has broken into WD Hendricks Primary School many times.

                                     PHOTOS: TIYESE JERANJI

Factreton parents march to an alleged burglar’s house to warn him that they are aware that he has broken into WD Hendricks Primary School many times. PHOTOS: TIYESE JERANJI

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After eight burglaries in five weeks at WD Hendricks Primary School in Factre­ton parents, teachers and pupils decided to protest on the school grounds. They warn that they want the police and the department of education to act immediately, otherwise they will take the law into their own hands.

Yet another burglary at the school, this time on Thursday night last week, prompted them to take a stand.

Holding placards, the protesters chanted last week that they had had enough. They felt that the burglaries were out of control and something had to be done urgently.

In the latest break-in the thieves gained access to the principal’s office through the roof. They stole a computer, printer and laminator and left his office in chaos.

In the past, burglars have also targeted computers and printers which are used by the teachers. The loss of the equipment makes it difficult for the teachers to conduct lessons as their planned worked is stored on the computers.

Due to this mounting frustration and anger, they protested inside the school last week. The parents also marched to an alleged suspect’s house, saying this was just a warning sign that they knew what he was doing and that he must stop. The parents allege that the suspect is a former pupil.

They blame the police for dragging their feet in arresting him. There are claims that he started stealing alone and later recruited three others to help him with the burglaries.

Parents claim he has been caught stealing red-handed on several occasions. But when this was reported to the police they were told to bring concrete evidence.

One of the angry parents, Faia Salie (57), says the situation is upsetting.

“We can’t sit and do nothing. This is our children’s education. If these burglaries continue the school will close and our kids will stay at home. We report every burglary but they say they want hard evidence. We tell them we have seen him with our own eyes and he has been caught at the school. What more do they need? This is the poorest school and the principal is trying, but there is so much that he can do. The police must arrest the suspect. We are tired, we want our kids to learn properly without any fear or disturbances,” says Salie.

Another parent, Rose Daniels (50), also claims the police have failed them.

“If the police continue dragging their feet we will end up taking the law into our own hands because there is no justice for our children. What will be left of the school if we continue to let such things happen? We have had enough, this is our children’s future being put on the line,” says Daniels.

The school doesn’t have security and they only get a guard during school holidays. Their wish is to have more than one guard and a dog throughout the year so that the school is protected.

School principal Graham Swartz says the situation is frustrating.

“These computers have really important information for our children. The worst part is that the computers are expensive, but the thieves break them open and sell the parts for cheap; yet we are suffering. We are losing a lot and we need to have beefed-up security throughout the year for the benefit of our children. The problem is that our school has buildings facing each other, giving the thieves enough time to do whatever they want because no-one sees them. Though we have been to the police we are told to bring evidence. It’s so difficult for us. Classes can’t go on like this; it’s affecting us a lot,” says Swartz.

Millicent Merton, spokesperson of the department of education, says the department was not aware of the protest at the school. She says the department’s safe schools unit has supported the school extensively, and continues to do so.

“A security guard is being provided to the school. Other arrangements are also being made to support the school further. We encourage communities to take ownership of schools and act as watchdogs. They need to become involved in caring for the school and report any suspects to the police.

“The police arrested a suspect in connection with the burglaries at WD Hendricks Primary School. His two accomplices are still at large.

“The department of education is investing R28.5m in the safe schools programme in the 2015/16 financial year, which will be used to provide targeted security infrastructure support to schools,” says Merton

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