School crippled by break-ins

Parents gather outside Sentinel Primary School to raise their concerns.

Sentinel Primary School this month suffered two break-ins in the space of a week in what is the latest in a string of criminal attacks that is costing the no-fee school far more than it can afford.

On Thursday October 10, an office was broken into and a laptop, desktop computer and other electrical appliances were stolen.
The following week, on Thursday October 17, the school’s tuck shop, run by a member of the Hangberg community, was broken into.
Principal Claudine Overmeyer said the school realised only after the incident had taken place that the alarm had also been vandalised so was not activated.  

“It seems that these acts are planned. The school has sent out a message to parents to ask for leads. If we don’t find financial help I don’t know what will happen as we are a no-fee paying school. And most of our funds go to municipal bills and fixing day-to-day vandalism,” she said.

In August, their school bus was vandalised with damages amounting to approximately R10 000.

The tuck shop, which is run from a shipping container, has also broken into a few times and the value of the stolen items is about R13 000.

Ms Overmeyer said from time to time windows are broken “for fun” and about 40 windows were damaged throughout the year which cost the school about R3 000 to replace.

“The first time the tuckshop was broken into, it was children between the ages of 7 and 14. The parents do not take responsibility. With every burglary, the school spends money to fix the broken doors and windows,” she said.

News of the latest break-in has sparked anger and disappointment in the community which prompted residents to protest on Friday October 22 and raise their concerns.

Ashley Williams from Hangberg has two children at the school and finds it disturbing that the school is targeted, especially as many of the children are from the area.

“It either has to be kids going home and sharing information about what is inside the school or this could be the same criminal targeting the school. It’s pure madness man and it’s affecting our children,” he said.

Another parent, Rowena Thompson, also said the school should try and start their investigations from “inside out”. “I just find it very weird that a school would be targeted so many times. The tuck shop especially. This is teaching our kids the wrong thing, because they have to learn through all of this. Eventually, they will lose focus and instead they will choose to go and break in elsewhere, because they see how the criminals are getting away with this at their school,” Ms Thompson said.

The Peace and Mediation Forum’s spokesperson, Warren Abrahams, was utterly disgusted at the latest criminal activity at the school and formed part of the crowd protesting.

“The break-ins affect the school’s education and emotional well-being. What saddens me is that it could be our own community or a family member of the children who attend Sentinel Primary School who are behind these incidents,” he said.

Western Cape Education Department spokesperson, Millicent Merton, said Sentinel Primary School had only reported one burglary for the year.

She said the principal had reported that items were stolen on Thursday October 10, which included a computer, a laptop and hard drive.

“The school has an alarm system and it is connected to an armed response company. The school was supported with security during the holiday period. Our schools should be places where we ‘enter to learn’ and not for criminal elements to ‘enter to steal’”, Ms Merton said.

The school has since made efforts to raise the necessary funds to repair damages through various initiatives, like the recent auction hosted at the Bay Harbour Market.

However, after the latest setback, Ms Overmeyer said the school simply did not have a budget for additional security measures.

“The school will have to ask for donations from sponsors and parents. We have asked for help with security but we were told that there is no funds. The school will never be able to afford that,” she said.

“We will continue to ask for leads.”

Hout Bay police were unable to comment at the time of going to print.