| PORT ELIZABETH

Top PE school stripped bare by thieves

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Police fail to make any arrests despite numerous incidents

Photo of man pointing at vandalised classrooms
Ncedo High School caretaker, Mzwake Klass, points at classes with broken windows. Inside there is also a rundown toilet that is no longer in use. Photo: Joseph Chirume
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Vandals in Eastern Cape have stripped bare a high school that is one of the province’s top sporting achievers. The school buildings are standing empty and shapeless after its windows and doors were stolen.

Ncedo High School in Port Elizabeth won the 2016 Eastern Cape Under 19 Kay Motsepe schools soccer cup final. For its efforts, the school pocketed a cash prize of R100,000 and in October the school will be travelling to Gauteng to represent the province in the national finals. Its 64% matric pass rate is also considerably higher than the provincial pass rate of 57%. There are 1,010 pupils and 28 teachers.

Situated at the heart of Motherwell in NU 10, the school has no perimeter fence, nor signs after they were stolen. Community members, including their cattle and goats roam freely at any time with little regard for students in classrooms.

Concerned school principal Thobeka Pityana-Keswa explained: “We are no different from those children who learn under trees. We have a huge challenge of security for infrastructure at the school. The school is under siege from none other than the community itself. We have had numerous cases of burglaries. Just today I was told the pipes in some toilets were stolen last night.”

She continued: “Almost everyday we find our school broken into. We have reported all these cases to the police but to my surprise no arrests have been made. The police come and take statements including the combing off of the crime scene area where [they] pick up fingerprints, but that will be the end of the case.”

Pityana-Keswa said that criminals target school doors, windows and panes, lights, door handles and electric pylons. She also said the robbers remove toilet seats, kitchen utensils and metal goal posts.

“Our computer room has also been one of the targets. They stole almost everything, including printers and laptops. Our fence was removed some five years ago. We have a security guard but he is defenceless because he is ill-equipped. He was also attacked and robbed at the house [on the school] where he stays.”

On Monday, Mayor Athol Trollip visited the school. He handed over a R20,000 sponsorship to help the school soccer team with its transport costs. He said: “The conditions at the school are shocking. The ceilings in the classrooms are collapsing, windows are broken and there is no fence around the school. It is unacceptable that almost half of the school classrooms are dilapidated. This poses a serious danger to pupils and teachers.” He added that he would approach the provincial government to intervene.

School caretaker Mzwake Klass said he has been with the school for nearly five years and has lost count of how many break-ins he has reported to the police. “This is just like living in the jungle. I feel pity for the children because their right to a decent education is being violated.” He noted that the children’s right to privacy is violated especially when they go to the toilet. He described how he was robbed last month and stabbed.

Eastern Cape Department of Education spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima urged communities to protect school property. He said “We appeal to parents and communities to guard schools because it’s their inheritance from government. We also appeal to school management to utilise their budgets so that they can make things better at their schools.”

At the time of publication, the police had not yet responded to requests for comment.

“If security could be improved at this school, we have the potential to be the best achievers in our province,” said principal Pityana-Keswa.

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Dear Editor

It is so sad that the community can turn a blind eye to the death of the children's future. This is common in our communities, I am a teacher at a colored/black school. We also have break-ins almost every day and police make no arrests. Somedays we have no water to drink and flush toilets. Our communities have turned to animals. Parents are only into 'sorting out' teachers and ignore everything else