Durban school for children with special needs stripped bare by looters

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A staff member at KwaZulu-Natal’s Golden Steps school stands in an empty kitchen after the school’s appliances and food were looted last week.
A staff member at KwaZulu-Natal’s Golden Steps school stands in an empty kitchen after the school’s appliances and food were looted last week.
  • At least 130 schools in KwaZulu-Natal were looted and vandalised during last week’s unrest.
  • Among the schools that lost everything was Golden Steps, a special needs school, in Verulam, Durban.
  • The school was completely ransacked, with looters taking everything from food and appliances to specialised computers and TVs designed to assist children with disabilities.

"They took everything. All of the food, dishes, televisions and computers that were donated to the school were all stolen," says a tearful Anesh Singh.

He is the head of Golden Steps, a public school for children with intellectual and physical disabilities in Verulam, Durban, GroundUp reports.

The school was among 130 educational facilities in the province that were vandalised and looted last week.

Singh told GroundUp the school's 217 pupils, who enrolled for the 2021 school year, would have nowhere to go should schools reopen next week.

He said most of the pupils came from poor households and often relied on the school for hot meals and transport daily.

This is no longer possible because all of the school's sponsored appliances and food were ransacked.

READ | 'It destroys our future': Pupils concerned after KwaZulu-Natal schools vandalised during unrest

Expensive computers with software to assist non-verbal learners are also gone.

"There were two brand new TVs still in boxes that I recently acquired from Samsung for our learners, worth over R45 000 each that are gone."

The school recently received a new bus from the Department of Education which was vandalised as well as other buses on the premises.

"The fuel was extracted and parts of the bus were stolen and damaged.

"It is a very emotional time for the staff and learners as the unrest has crippled the culture of learning and teaching at our school."

Singh, who spoke proudly of his school and its accolades, said Golden Steps had been an integral part of the community.

READ | Almost 1 700 in custody amid SA unrest - but jails are already overcrowded

"Some community members are going in search of the looted items because the people who did this are thugs and they deserve to be arrested. Why steal from a school that helps the community? We would greatly appreciate any form of assistance."

On Tuesday afternoon, Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu visited Bavumile Primary School and Mzwamandla Secondary School in Umlazi District to assess the damage caused by the unrest.

Equal Education (EE) has condemned the destruction of schools.

"We plead with the community, parents and religious leaders to try by all means to protect schools in this difficult time," said EE in a statement.

"The destruction comes at a time when schools are preparing to safely reopen their gates to learners in a few days after the July school holiday was extended to curb the spread of Covid-19 during the third wave. Many learners will be left stranded and this will [deepen] the inequalities highlighted by the pandemic," it added.

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