- Mpumalanga's Education MEC is worried about criminals targeting schools during the country's Covid-19 lockdown.
- One school has been burgled seven times since South Africa's lockdown first started towards the end of March.
- MEC Bonakele Majuba is also concerned about the shortage of water at some schools.
- Access to water is crucial in preventing the spread of Covid-19 as people are urged to wash their hands regularly.
Mpumalanga Basic Education MEC Bonakele Majuba has expressed concern at the shortage of running water in parts of the province, as well as the theft of personal protective equipment (PPE), which is meant to be used to curb the spread of the coronavirus in schools.
Majuba told News24 during a telephonic interview that 147 schools across the province have been broken into since the beginning of Level 5 lockdown.
He said the hardest-hit school was Extension K Secondary School in Tweefontein in the Thembisile Hani Local Municipality, which was burgled seven times.
"The thugs also stole computers, soccer kits and other things in most of the schools," said Majuba.
"In some schools, PPE has been stolen shortly after they have been delivered. What is more concerning is that the thugs broke the ceilings to get into some of these schools. The latest break-in happened at Lekazi Primary School in Kanyamazane [near Mbombela] last weekend. We have so far fixed 77 of the affected schools, but there are still some minor challenges."
Mpumalanga has recorded 505 Covid-19 cases, 156 recoveries, and one death as of 19 June.
Majuba said there was a shortage of running water and sanitation in Nkomazi and Bushbuckridge.
He insisted, however, that these shortages were not obstacles to the government's efforts to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in schools. The MEC said he was still expecting teachers and learners to double their efforts, so that the province could achieve a good pass rate in the Grade 12 class at the end of the current academic year.
"The schools are clean, but some taps in some schools have been broken and stolen. Rand Water and the municipalities are helping us to supply water to the schools," said Majuba.
Jasper Zwane, the spokesperson for the department, told News24 on Friday that eight schools in the province were currently closed due to Covid-19 cases being reported.
He said the schools would be reopened as soon as testing and disinfection processes were concluded.
Mpumalanga MEC for Community Safety Gabisile Tshabalala appealed to members of communities to assist in protecting schools from burglary and theft.
"The safety of premises requires all stakeholders to work together, including the communities where these schools are located," said Tshabalala in a statement issued by her department.Tshabalala further appealed to the police to thoroughly investigate all schools' burglaries and called for increased patrols around the schools.