The cost of damages to 27 schools in the Western Cape over the December holiday period is estimated to be R400 000, the provincial education department has said.Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schaffer on Thursday said school vandalism was not only a cost to the department, but to the learners and community as well.The damages include theft, burglary and vandalism. Three-quarters of the estimates had been calculated, Schaffer said."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," she said."A school is a community asset. Everyone should help protect schools, as it is fundamental to the future of our children."At one school, the MEC said, a feeding kitchen had been targeted, where over 100kg of food was stolen. Schaffer expressed shock at this act: "It is simply deplorable to steal food out of the mouths of our learners." At other schools across the province, incidents reported included theft of copper pipes, electrical cabling, computer equipment and school stationery. Others reported damage to classrooms, school halls and computer labs, as well as theft of and damage to light fittings, windows and sporting equipment. Schaffer added: "It is devastating that people are prepared to do this to schools, when we know the desperate needs in education and the inadequacy of our budget to cope with them. "We should be using these funds to build new schools, improve existing schools, appoint additional teachers and generally improve opportunities for children."She urged schools to be extra vigilant throughout the year and to immediately report any suspicious behaviour or activities that occur within the vicinity of their schools.