The cost of having repairs done at township schools in the Free State, owing to a spate of burglaries and vandalism, has hamstrung the Free State Department of Education.
These crimes have thus far cost the department millions in an effort to repair and replace important educational tools utilised by teachers and learners. The priority is to ensure learners’ and teachers’ health and safety.
Combined, burglary and vandalism have cost the department approximately R11,9 million, and this is only in the case of township schools that were targeted since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown.
Despite state law enforcement promising to act harshly, criminals continue to target schools in townships. The number of arrests relating to these crimes at 90 schools across the province are low.
Howard Ndaba, spokesperson for the department, said the abovementioned cost relates to repairs done at schools in townships which demanded urgent attention before the schools were opened on 8 June for matrics and Gr. 7 learners.
The provincial department is expected to spend R97,4 million on schools with challenges such as non-functional ablution facilitaties and broken windows and doors.
“It is important to point out that this is what the department is currently spending this year,” said Ndaba.
Ndaba pointed out that a spate of vandalism and burglary at township schools remain a grave concern of Tate Makgoe, MEC for Education.
“He believes burglaries and vandalism defeat the purpose of education and credibility of schools in township as important institutions of education and learning, as well as employment,” said Ndaba.
The department suffered a setback as new toilet bowls in the boys’ ablution block at the Ntha Primary School were vandalised just days after repair.
“If vandalism continues, the costs will skyrocket,” said Ndaba.
With schools in the province having been reopened for just a month, the department is expecting more learners back at schools and beefing up Covid-19 prevention measures as from Monday (06/07).
According to Ndaba, the de- partment is prepared for the return of 388 685 learners in Gr. R, Gr. 1, Gr. 2, Gr. 3, Gr. 6, Gr. 10 and Gr. 11.
He said the past four weeks have been fruitful after schools restarted with Gr. 7 and Gr. 12 learners.
“The weeks of learning and teaching have been valuable for us to learn some important lessons on key areas where we need to pay attention, as we continue to implement the phased-in approach in the Covid-19 environment.”