Port Elizabeth school fears further vandalism and theft during holidays

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Toilets at Gertrude Shope Primary School in Port Elizabeth have been repeatedly vandalised by criminals. The school says it can’t afford to hire its own security guards. (Photo: Mkhuseli Sizani/GroundUp)
Toilets at Gertrude Shope Primary School in Port Elizabeth have been repeatedly vandalised by criminals. The school says it can’t afford to hire its own security guards. (Photo: Mkhuseli Sizani/GroundUp)

Vandalism and theft are costing Gertrude Shope Primary School in Port Elizabeth thousands of rand. As schools are expected to close for the holidays soon, teachers and parents fear that their school will be ransacked by criminals.

The school governing body (SGB) has asked the Eastern Cape Department of Education to provide them with security guards to patrol the premises at night, but the department says its up to the school to set its own funds aside for this.

"Every time we close, our school is damaged. The problem is during the holidays, weekends and at night. When we close, we have to carry all the furniture from our Grade R side and bring it into our main school building, in fear of the vandals," said school principal Thembeka Ngcape.

Gertrude Shope is situated in the township of Govan Mbeki and has 936 learners. Ngcape said each year they spend most of their budget on repairs to doors, windows, fences and electrical wiring.

"Eight of 27 classrooms in our main school building has no electricity. Thugs ripped out the plugs, cables and lights. There are huge holes in the fence," she said.

Ngcape said the Grade R block, situated 300m from the main school building was in an even worse state.

"Toilets and washing basins have been stolen. The whole grade R block has no electricity. Teachers have to carry water with 25 litres [buckets] to flush the toilets," she said.

Ngcape said they had made several appeals to the department, as well as the community, to help keep the school safe.

SGB chairperson Vuyolwethu Siwo said that, in June this year, the school had spent R89 000 repairing toilets and an additional R130 000 on electric repairs. Since then, ten more classes were vandalised and are in need of repairs.

"We appeal to the Department of Education to help us with night security guards. We only have a guard during school hours," he said.

Siwo added that residents had its role to play in ensuring that the school remained a safe space.

He said they had "lost hope in the KwaDwesi Police Station, who don’t come when we call them", after no progress was made on any of the cases they reported.

In response, Captain Andre Beegte said: "Normally vandalism cases are archived because there are no witnesses or matches on fingerprints."

Department spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima said that the SGB "have a right to employ guards and then write to the department to request a reimbursement".

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