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Vandals bring school to a standstill

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Vandals bring school to a standstill

by Nurene Jassiem
14 Mar 2007
Peoples Post
Peoples Post

A spate of 19 break-ins at Phoenix High School in Manenberg since September last year has resulted in a serious lack of resources at the school.

An entire block in the school building has been vandalised, with holes in the ceilings, broken windows, theft of copper pipes and, most seriously, laboratory equipment that has led to the school being unable to teach physical science.

Other items stolen include electrical wiring, geysers and toilets.

"Our gas cylinders and test tubes have all been stolen. I've been teaching at this school for 20 years and I can't teach my classes any more.

"We have about 70 matriculants doing biology this year and they can't do their practicals because we don't have the equipment," says Shaheed Galant, one of the teachers at Phoenix High School.

Galant says they had to stop teaching physical science at the school a few years ago due to vandalism of their labs, and he adds that the situation is "just getting worse".

One teacher at the school has been unable to use her classroom for the past two years after it was destroyed by a fire. After being repaired, the same classroom was vandalised to such an extent that it is unusable by the school.

... severely detrimental to the education of pupils at the school.

Jeremy Ontong, the subject head for natural sciences and biology at the school, says the break-ins are severely detrimental to the education of pupils at the school.

"Most of the experiments that we need to conduct with Senior Phase learners involve heating, but because our gas cylinders are being stolen all the time we can't even conduct the basic experiments.

"It is expected of us to improvise if we don't have equipment by using household products, but when it comes to chemicals and gas, it's not that easy," he says.

Alfred Davids, who serves on the school's governing body, says the school is trying to improve security but attempts to put paid security guards in place at the school have met with "lots of red-tape from the Education Department".

The school has been asked to provide the Education Department with quotes for monthly security, and estimates thus far range between R42 000 and R70 000 a month.'

In the meantime, as of last week, the school is making use of the local neighbourhood watch to patrol its premises after hours. However, says Davids, this is taking its toll on the school's funds, as "the Department says it will not provide money to pay these people as they are not a registered security company".

The vandals not only damage the classrooms, they also destroyed years of work on portfolios that have been built up by teachers...

Another concern at the school is that, when they report the break-ins to the police, detectives do not come out to take fingerprints, thus delaying the process. When they do arrive, they cannot find any substantial evidence. "After a break-in in January and our last break-in during February, the detectives did not come out. The vandals not only damage the classrooms, they also destroyed years of work on portfolios that have been built up by teachers," says Caroline McPhearson, the governing body's secretary.

People's Post brought the concerns to the attention of Manenberg SAPS's newly-appointed station commissioner, Director Gerhard Jantjies. He was clearly angered and called for an immediate Crime Pattern Analysis of all the break-ins at schools in Manenberg since last year.

Jantjies also dealt with the assigned investigating officer through internal procedures.

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