Schools under attack

A portion of the Marine Primary School fence that is falling apart.PHOTO: Racine Edwardes
A portion of the Marine Primary School fence that is falling apart.PHOTO: Racine Edwardes

Community benefit organisations and initiatives, as well as schools in Ocean View, have been hard hit by crime. Now, local school principals are speaking out.

“When Jupiter opened in 2019, there was tension because the school enclosed the area that the community previously used to play on and to park (their) cars on when there was a funeral at the graveyard. From day one, the fencing poles and wire were being stolen. It became worse late last year when the inner-school fencing along Jupiter Street was brazenly taken as well,” André Pretorius, the principal at Jupiter Street Primary, shares.

But it is not only the new developments that are being targeted. Kleinberg Primary School was recently burgled.

Ocean View police spokesperson Sgt Leon Fortuin confirmed there was a burglary at the premises on Tuesday 23 June. According to the report, the discovery was made at 08:40 when water was found flowing out of a classroom’s door. The burglar bars had been cut open and items were missing. A computer monitor, three projectors and two keyboards were among the stolen items.

Wayne Lawrence, the principal at Marine Primary School, says theft and vandalism are common in the community. “During the lockdown, and even before, all schools suffered a great deal of theft and vandalism which costs schools a lot of money. The department of education has in many cases come to the party to assist but R8 000 here and there becomes very costly,” he says.

According to Pretorius, “even the Neighbourhood Farm Project at Ocean View High was hit with a robbery recently”.

“Staff at the Learners with Special Education Needs School of Skills were held up at gunpoint. Marine Primary and Ocean View High have also been broken into many times. They also had fencing stolen. Staff at an ECD centre in Ocean View were robbed,” he adds.

The Marine Primary principal says, although they have not been burgled within the past few months, the run-down state of its school fencing provides opportunities for criminal activity.

“This school is about 49 years old, almost 50 years old, and we still have the original fence. The children don’t want to walk around it so they make a thorough way through the fence. We fix little holes because we don’t have the money to replace (it entirely). We may fix the hole on Friday and by Monday the hole is back,” says Lawrence.

He says the fence’s poor condition encourages trespassing after school hours, on weekends and during school holidays.

“Many parents and the community around the school have been complaining as well, but we don’t have money to replace the fence.”

Lawrence says the replacement of the fence is imperative, not only to keep criminal elements out but to ensure the safety of the learners and staff inside when tensions run high in the community.

“There was a time at the beginning of the year when there was gang rivalry going on here, in front of the school, where these gangsters were shooting like cowboys. That’s been very traumatic for the teachers and the learners,” he explains.

Marine Primary and Kleinberg Primary fall in the Quintile 4 and 5 bracket. As such, they are responsible for raising funds independently when it comes to replacing fences, for example.

But with school fees not coming in and the high unemployment rate in Ocean View and Masiphumelele, Lawrence feels a change is needed. “They need to consider a quintile change. Based on the needs of the community and the socio-economic situation, we are not a Quintile 5.”

With school resources, learners and teachers constantly at risk, Pretorius is concerned about the long-term effect on the community if this situation continues.

“How many more times must our schools be broken into, the staff robbed at knife or gunpoint, our fencing stolen? It is sad that at our Cape Flats schools we have to have a safer schools committee at each school because it is a given that some people will steal and destroy.”

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