By Mbali Tanana
Thieves have stripped at least four schools in Mdantsane and a social development office of fence and steel poles in just four months.
Bulumko Junior Primary, Nkululeko Higher Primary, and Zukisa Lower Primary – all in close proximity in NU1 – and Funulwazi Higher Primary in NU2 have been targeted by the thieves.
The regional social development office in NU1, which is next to Nkululeko HP, was also not spared.
The Daily Dispatch reported on Monday that Ebenezer Majombozi High School in Duncan Village had its fence stripped.
Unlike the Mdantsane schools, the school had been complaining about poor fencing for five years.
The stealing of the fence has put pupils and teachers at the mercy of thugs, who can now enter and leave school premises as they please.
As a result, the schools have appealed for help from the education department.
Bulumko principal Mfundiso Ncedani said they first noticed that 95 poles were stolen around the school just before schools closed for the mid-year break.
He said they opened a case with the police and called a meeting with parents to discuss the matter.
“It was not long when we had a lead from the community that a popular boxer had used poles, which looked similar to our schools’, in his shack, and had placed them along his newly fenced stoep,” he said.
Ncedani said he went with the police who interrogated the boxer, who admitted to buying the poles from someone random in Highway.
“Upon the school’s opening, a portion of the fence was stolen and they came back for more last week.
“This is very disappointing because our schools don’t have caretakers and this puts the school, pupils and teachers at huge risk,” he said.
Nkululeko principal Mxolisi Mbanga said they were first hit in May when thieves stripped the school of 30m of fencing, including barbed wire and 24 poles.
“Over the [last] weekend they took another 30m of wire and 15 poles.
“Our children are petrified because there have been rumours of a car circulating kidnapping children and now they don’t even play, they are worried for their safety.
“If they can’t feel safe enough to play at school, I don’t know where they can find the security,” he said.
Mbanga said teachers had become more vigilant and were alternating, doing rounds on school premises during break time.
The principal at Zukisa, Noluthando Wulushe, said it was scary for schools to be targeted.
“They stole gutters and poles. The only ones they didn’t take were those that were cemented into the ground.
“I am very worried that they will be coming back for more. Schools surrounding me have lost metres of fencing and I’m afraid they will do the same to my school. Mind you, our kids are very young because we are a primary school [so] they can easily wander off or be tricked into cars of strangers,” she said.
Provincial education spokesman Loyiso Pulumane said the department had a R304-million contract with two international fencing giants to improve security at all the schools in the province.
“The schools that have been brought to my attention are not on the list of schools that have submitted requests for fencing.
“Some schools forfeit opportunity for infrastructure intervention by not making formal requests through the proper channels in the district offices.
“Notwithstanding that oversight, the director for infrastructure planning has assured me that the schools will be added forthwith as additional, so that they also fall in line for security upgrades in due course, with the state-of-the-art palisade fencing that the department is installing in its schools.”
Mdantsane police spokesman Captain Nkosikho Mzuku confirmed they were investigating several cases of theft pertaining to school fences in the area. Specifically commenting on Bulumko, Mzuku said: “Neither the complainant nor the man [boxer] could give convincing proof that the poles belong to them in terms of proof of purchase and evidence.
There was no eyewitness from the side of the complainant. “Investigations continue. Once completed the docket will be taken to the senior public prosecutor for decision.
“No arrests made so far.”
He urged anyone with information that could assist the police in their investigation to contact the investigating officer, Warrant Officer Sandile Jozi on 043 -708-7000 or 078- 268-4500. — firstname.lastname@example.org