Schools the target of armed robbers in the Western Cape

Even though Lwandle Primary School is well-fenced, the principal feels that it is not enough to make the school safe. Photo by Mzi Velapi

School security remains one of the biggest problems in the Western Cape. Four primary schools were robbed at gunpoint during the month of May. The Western Cape Education Department has put up R10,000 reward for information leading to the arrests ,of culprits. School principals and Equal Education believe the reward does not address the problem of school safety.

Khayelitsha, Cape Town, South Africa

School security remains one of the biggest problems in the Western Cape. Four primary schools were robbed at gunpoint during the month of May. Ummangaliso Primary in Khayelitsha, Intshayelelo Primary and Lwandle Primary in Lingelethu West, and Vukhukhanye Primary in Gugulethu were all victims of the most recent attacks.

Stanley Maqubela, the Principal of Lwandle Primary, said that their school was a target due to the lure of government provided-technology and a lack of security guards. “We don’t have money to hire security,” said Maqubela “Anybody can come in here right now.”

The May 29th robbery took place during school hours when three young men entered the school grounds pretending to be parents before pulling a gun on administrators, stealing cell phones, laptops, tablets and overhead projectors.

“The one with the gun threatened to blow my head off. We had to comply,” he said.

Maqubela and other faculty members are not trained to monitor the security of schools or deal with armed violence. “Our teachers are here to teach,” Maqubela said. “They need to feel safe so they can do their work.”

The Western Cape Education Department announced  that R10,000 will be offered to anyone who can provide information about the robberies leading to a conviction. “We don’t usually offer awards,” Jessica Shelver, a spokesperson of WCED said in an email. “But SAPS is severely under resourced in the Western Cape – so we have to find ways to assist our schools.”

According to Equal Education‘s 2015/2016 Annual Report, broken fences and a lack of security guards have allowed Western Cape schools to lose millions to burglaries yearly.

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Noncedo Madubedube, the Western Cape Head of Equal Education, an activist organization that advocates for quality and equality in the South African education system, says that poorer areas with no-fee schools need the type of government intervention for schools in higher risk areas.

“Big sums of money have been pushed into patching structural issues instead of investing money to figure out how to fix these things across the board,” said Madubedube. The blanket approach to funding the schooling systems should be replaced by an equitable one, putting money where it is needed most, she added.

“The WCED scope ends within a certain radius of the school and that’s where the police and forums need to come in and have volunteers patrolling,” she said. “A lot of the schools that need it – like the township schools – don’t have the resources to properly implement that kind of framework.”

Mlungisi Siko, the principal of Ummangaliso Primary told Elitsha that he will be meeting with the MEC for Education Debbie Schäfer to discuss options beyond the R10,000 reward.

“We need to focus on security stationed at schools, not just one school,” said Siko. “I don’t need a temporary solution, I need a permanent one.”

Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana from the South African Police Service said that SAPS and other law enforcement agencies are conducting patrols in efforts to curb crime around the schools in the areas, including daily visits.

The cases are still under investigation,” said Rwexana. “The detectives are following up on possible leads with no arrests as yet.”

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