PE school trashed four times in week
Vindictive vandals took their thieving to new lows over the school holidays, dampening the spirits of more than 100 special needs pupils who had been eagerly waiting to return to their classrooms but found them burnt to the ground instead.
Reuben Birin School for the Hearing Impaired, housing 140 pupils between grade R and grade 11 with varying disabilities, was the target of the wanton destruction, with the premises along Uitenhage Road in Algoa Park being broken into four times in one week.
And in the latest incident on Sunday, a wing of the school was set alight, with 12 classrooms and three storerooms filled with textbooks and stationery destroyed.
On Thursday, computers and other equipment were stolen from nonprofit organisation Sezibyte – which is being housed on the school premises – before its building was also set alight.
Nelson Mandela Bay education district director Ernest Gorgonzola said a full investigation and assessment report still needed to be compiled, but he estimated the damage would run into millions of rands and take at least six months to replace.
The school’s deputy principal, Vuyiswa Mpambani, said the school had been burgled on March 25, with the thieves breaking into the administration block and stealing a laptop and desktop computers.
Three batteries and radios from the school’s scholar transport fleet were also stolen.
On Wednesday night last week, a printer was stolen in yet another burglary.
“Our children are devastated,” Mpambani said.
“Out there in the world, these children already face unique challenges.
“At this school they feel like equals and look forward to returning, only to have their dreams dashed in this way.”
She said the school hoped to continue with classes on Monday by using any available space.
“We suspect it is the same people, but we cannot know for sure.
“All of the incidents happened during the night.
“It was so heartbreaking to return almost daily during the holidays to find something else had been stolen or damaged.
“What makes it worse is all the materials which we also lost,” she said.
“Now we will have to scrape together any old things we can find to try and function as normally as possible.”
Sezibyte director Graham Nosworthy said his NPO lost about R400,000 worth of equipment and records.
“We were there about two weeks and this happened.
“We have upskilled impoverished people through computer training, teaching them how to create and develop small businesses and a host of other empowerment training since 1999 and nothing close to this has happened,” he said.
“Just a week before this happened, I was up in Johannesburg getting funding for the project and so on, only to return to this.
“None of the items were insured as yet.
“But it’s not the money we lost which saddens me, it’s the fact that the same people you’re trying to help betray you like this.”
Gorgonzola said while security remained an issue at most Bay schools, adding more security guards would be pointless if the community did not take ownership of their schools.
“It is up to the community to also take responsibility for the schools which are in their areas,” he said.
“The school has an alarm, but as a result of the ongoing construction on Uitenhage Road, the grid was temporarily off.
“But what saddens me most is the vindictive manner in which these attacks happened.”
Principal Mzwanele Blou urged anyone able to help replace the textbooks, stationery or furniture to contact the school.
He said St Vincent School for the Deaf in Johannesburg had already committed to courier old textbooks.
Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Alwin Labans said cases of arson and burglary were being investigated.