Dire straits made worse by thieves, vandals

Luyolo Mkentane

MANY Port Elizabeth schools in dire need of maintenance and upgrading are also having to deal with severe, ongoing vandalism.

One of the worst hit schools is Nzondelelo High in Zwide, where most classrooms have no doors.


Loyiso High School Deputy Principal Jerry Mbenge shows a vandalised electricity box.
Loyiso High School Deputy Principal Jerry Mbenge shows a vandalised electricity box.

The school’s name has been etched on the few doors to prevent thieves from stealing them or to easily identify them when stolen.


Teacher Nomathamsanqa Mboya, who showed The Herald team around the school, said they had to employ a night security guard.

“Vandalism is costing us a lot, out of the R275 annual school fees
from our pupils, we must pay a security guard; a cleaner; two clerks and
a teacher,” she said.

Gqebera High in Zinyoka township near Kleinskool had three of its
multipurpose classrooms torched during the December holidays last year.

“We normally experience a lot of vandalism during the school holidays
and on weekends. We do open cases with police but no one has been
arrested yet,” said school principal Themba Faku.

In the Northern Areas, the worst affected schools include Dr AW
Habelgaarn Primary, once dubbed “the school of hell” by politician
Christian Martin, several years ago.

Situated in Chatty’s Arkeldien Street, only the administration block
that has electricity. Principal Leonard Schoeman said the school was
attacked by vandals some time ago. They ripped out the electricity box
and copper wiring at the toilets, leaving the school in the dark.

He said vandalism was a continuing trend in the school. Vandals also ripped out burglar gates, probably to sell as scrap.

Alpha Primary in Bell Road, Gelvandale, had six of its classrooms
torched by arsonists in February. Teachers and pupils “lost everything”
in the fire, according to principal Anton Arendse.

Collegiate Junior School Community Service Club, which assists the
school, then called on corporates and the public to assist with
donations such as stationery, computers, fence and furniture.

Arendse said they were now in the process of erecting a cottage for “a person who can stay here and look after the school”.

“We are also still waiting for new desks from the education
department, as the old ones were destroyed in the arson attack,” he
said, adding at the moment pupils had to share desks among themselves.

Kroneberg Primary, also in Chatty, has suffered severe vandalism during school holidays since 1994.

Windows in the computer room were broken. Deputy principal Yul Billet
said the school also had its resource centre torched by arsonists about
three years ago.

“The ceiling board had to be replaced and the library books suffered
smoke damage. But at the end of last quarter we managed to fix the
resource centre on our own resources. We also received a donation of
window panes from Shatterprufe,” he said.

Billet said they had recently bought a new mash wire and palisade fencing to “limit access to the school”.

When approached for comment, community members who didn’t want to be
named, felt “bad elements” who vandalised schools were well known in
their communities.

Besides graffiti on the walls, De Vos Malan Primary in Lawler Street,
Schauderville, is fighting an uphill battle with members of the public
who want to take a shortcut through the school’s grounds by “ripping
out” sections of the palisade fence.

Principal Anthony van Eck said they raised their own funds for
maintenance purposes because “nothing has been forthcoming from the
education department as far as maintenance and refurbishment of the
school is concerned”.

“The department gives us R17000 for maintenance. But honestly, what can you do with R17000?.”

While he felt the community should be responsible for looking after
the school, Van Eck urged the department to assume responsibility and
“look after their property”.

Situated in Schauderville’s Kohlberg Street, David Livingstone Senior
School is caught in a “catch 22 situation” regarding vandalism.
Principal Desmond Grove said the toilets were in a “dilapidated state”.

“The pupils’ toilets, especially the boys’ are not in a conducive
state. We fix them whenever they are broken, but the pupils break them

CW Hendrickse Primary School principal Dawood Ryners said vandalism
was so bad in the Uitenhage community that teachers were now unable to
use several classes because they could not be fixed.

“They steal everything from the glass in the window frames to the PA
system, our DVD machine and teaching material. Sometimes they just throw
stones at the windows for no reason. I do not understand why a
community would do this to its own school.”

He said the school had held a fundraising function one Friday night
to make money for the school. On the same night thieves stole thousands
of rands of equipment from the school.

“We can not even afford to fix what is broken. We would love to get a
security guard but how would we ever afford one? If only the community
would assist us by ensuring these vandals are stopped,” Ryners said.

When asked if the department used any criteria to check which
vandalised schools needed to be prioritised concerning repairs,
provincial department of education spokesman Loyiso Pulumani, said:
“Obviously, schools with the most dire circumstances elicit primary
consideration, whilst the rest are allocated in the priority list
incrementally over time.” – Additional reporting by Lee-Anne Butler and
Khanyi Ndabeni

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