VIDEO | School target of thieves

Settlers Park Primary School principal Andre Schlemmer shows the spot where burglars gained entry to the Walmer school during the last burglary
Picture: Werner Hills

Settlers Primary buckling under losses of close to R200 000

A spate of burglaries at Settlers Park Primary has seen books, stationery, gate motors and even carpets stolen from the Port Elizabeth school. The burglaries started about 10 months ago, with principal Andre Schlemmer estimating the costs at more than R180 000.

The school has experienced about 15 burglaries and thefts since May last year.

On Sunday, a man broke into one of the school offices and stole copper pipes, cricket equipment, two laptops, stationery and landline phones.

The video footage below, reportedly shows someone breaking into the school: 


He was caught later by an IEC volunteer, Hannes van Heerden, as the school was being used as a voter registration station.

On Thursday, three women, claiming to be applying for a Grade 5 pupil, had made off with about R4 000 from the tuckshop.

The school’s R9 000 electric gate motors were stolen two weeks ago.

Schlemmer said the continued burglaries were disheartening for both pupils and teachers.

“Over the last 10 months we have lost roughly about R180 000 to R200 000 worth of valuables that have been stolen,” he said.

“They have stolen everything of value such as sweets, books, stationery, printers and even peanut butter.

“It is truly discouraging coming in on a Monday knowing something had been stolen or a classroom had been broken into over the weekend.

“We are not a rich school. We can’t afford to be spending money on replacing things when we are already cash-strapped.”

Schlemmer said CCTV cameras had been installed last year and motion sensors had since also been put up around the school.

Unable to afford additional security cameras, Schlemmer said the next move would be to hire a security guard.

“This [burglaries] happens over weekends, generally between 3am and 4am when these young guys target our school, and I have come to know them by their tattoos and the way they walk,” he said.

“Police have been here every time but it has not stopped.”

School governing body chairwoman Cindy MacPherson said despite all the security measures, the school’s electric cables were also stolen.

“Churches and outside sponsors help us with fundraising but these criminals are very intelligent,” she said.

Of the tuckshop incident, she said the school could not afford the setback as the money was used to pay SGB teachers, four of whom had to be let go last year.

“The women, who were affluently dressed, came in and said they wanted to apply for a Grade 5 pupil,” MacPherson said.

“They then said they wanted to use the restroom and made their way to the tuckshop.”

Van Heerden, 41, of Overbaakens, who has children in Grade 4 and Grade 6, said his concern for their safety was growing.

“As a volunteer at the school, I often do maintenance jobs and a growing concern is the rugby field without proper fencing because anyone can enter the school from that side,” he said.

“The school isn’t really in a situation to be spending a lot of money, but it is clear they are trying to keep our kids safe.”

Bernadene Meyer, 39, of Humewood, whose son is in Grade 7, said she was praying her child would just make it to the end of the year.

“It is my son’s last year at the school, and we have had a really good time there, but in the last few months things have really gone from bad to worse,” she said.

“I am just hoping to get through the year so my son can go to a different school.

“Friends have said they want to move their kids to different schools as well.

“We are really in need of an intervention or a security guard who stays at the school.”

Attempts to get comment from provincial education spokesman Malibongwe Mtima were unsuccessful.

Police spokeswoman Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg confirmed that several complaints had been laid with the police.

Speaking about Sunday’s burglary, she said two suspects were involved but only one was arrested. “The other got away.”

The suspect appeared in court yesterday and was remanded to March 19.

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