Watching over Eastville Primary

KAYLYNN PALM

Eastville Primary School in Eastridge has had 20 break-ins in three months – forcing the school to establish a school watch.

Principal Graham Starke says the school has to focus on educational needs and not cater for criminals.

He said 30 classrooms have been broken into over the years, and that since the beginning of the school year, thieves have stolen intercoms, wires, lights, taps, pipes, books and stationery.

On Tuesday March 8, pupils, neighbourhood watch members, parents and Mitchell’s Plain police took to the streets in protest about the break-ins (“Enough is enough”, Plainsman, March 9) and on Wednesday March 9, the Eastridge community established a school watch.

The watch consists of 60 members and eight executive members, will do physical monitoring, patrols and reporting, and will work closely with Mitchell’s Plain SAPS.

Mr Starke said: “The damages are estimated at more than R200 000. We cannot afford to keep replacing and repairing. It’s ridiculous. The break-ins affects pupils as they have to work in dark classrooms with limited materials because electrical wires, lights, and learning equipment were stolen,” he said.

Lieutenant Ian Williams, spokesperson for Mitchell’s Plain SAPS, said Eastville and Cascade primary schools were high risk schools in the precinct in terms of break-ins and vandalism.

“Eastville Primary has had a series of break-ins and we are concerned about the criminal behaviour. We take these acts seriously as they affect, pupils, teachers and other staff.

“Because of the break-ins we partnered with the school, doing pamphleteering, embarked on a protest and have also formed a school watch with the community. We are appealing to residents to join the fight, and report crime,” he said.

Wilhelmina Minnaar, from the Eastridge Sector Neighbourhood Watch, does patrols in the morning when pupils head to school. Ms Minnaar said she is concerned about the frequent break-ins and agrees with Lieutenant Williams that residents should report crime.

“I am a senior citizen who cares for my community and is willing to render my time and efforts. If I can do it, so can you. Our pupils are suffering because of crime, and that isn’t fair to them,” she said.

Jessica Shelver, spokesperson for Education MEC Debbie Schäfer, said 17 burglaries were logged with the Safe Schools call centre in January and February. She said six burglaries were reported in January and 11 in February this year.

“The school seems to have been targeted by vandals. It seems as though the vandals have made brief visits to steal targeted items in a very short time and return on another day for more items.

“The armed response company had reacted but at most times the vandals had left before the arrival of the armed response service,” she said.

Ms Shelver said the armed response unit apprehended two people who were handed into the custody of the SAPS.

“Unfortunately, they were released after some time. Repair of the alarm system has been approved and emergency security has been extended until the end of the term when the holiday security will commence,” she said.

Mr Starke said the new alarm system, which hasn’t even been paid for yet, has been ripped off and stolen.

“We had security during the school holidays and also an alarm system, but this is not enough. We need the community to take ownership and responsibility for their school. Residents need to report crimes, contact the school and SAPS. We cannot do this alone, we need your assistance,” he said.

Ms Shelver said the alarm system had been installed at the school in December last year and that repairs to the alarm system have been approved.

“Holiday and emergency security have been funded. Safety marshalls (Bambanani members) have been appointed at the school by the Department of Community Safety. The Safe Schools co-ordinator and Safe Schools field worker have made several visits to the school.

“Vandalism comes at a huge cost, not only to the education department but to the school and the pupils too,” Ms Shelver said.