School’s safety compromised

The broken palisade fence.

A broken steel palisade fence has left a Walmer Estate primary school, still reeling from a burglary and the mugging of a teacher, vulnerable to what appears to be a growing crime wave in the area.

Holy Cross Primary School staff fear for their and their pupils’ safety. They suspect the approximately 3m-section of fence along Nelson Mandela Boulevard was vandalised.

They found the fence broken when they returned to school on Monday January 18. One of the steel posts appears to have been cut – there is no evidence of corrosion on it.

The school’s safety and security officer, Milton Emmett, believes the fence was intentionally broken. He said there would have been damage to a nearby low wall if it had been hit by a car.

The fence is on City land but is at the bottom of a patch of ground the school’s pupils use as a field.

By yesterday, Wednesday January 30, the fence had still not been repaired despite the school reporting the incident to the City.

“The fence has been down this whole week and that’s a week too much already. Our pupils are at risk as they play on the open ground,” Mr Emmett said.

Anyone could now walk in and out of the school grounds, he said.

“We have had teachers robbed and safety is a big concern for us right now,” he said.

Earlier this month, the school’s feeding scheme was jeopardised after a storeroom full of groceries was burgled.

Police suspect the burglar scaled the school’s Searle Street wall, which is about 2m high and topped with barbed wire. Groceries worth R3 000 were stolen.

At the time, Cape Town police spokesman Captain Ezra October said it looked like the burglar had removed plastic sheeting covering the lower part of a metal gate in Searle Street to get the food out of the school (“School’s feeding scheme burgled,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, January 17).

Late last year, Father Gerardo Garcia, of the Holy Cross Church, broke his ankle while chasing two muggers who had stolen a teacher’s handbag.

Two men with knives threatened the Holy Cross Primary School teacher in Nile Street as she climbed out of her car.

They took her cellphone and handbag holding R250 and her ID and credit card (“Priest breaks ankle chasing muggers,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, December 6 2018).

The school’s playground or lack thereof has been a contentious issue dating back to 2016, with residents, parents, teachers and the school governing body making several attempts to tie down the land opposite the school.

The unfenced ground is the only play space available for the school’s pupils to play and is also used as the teachers’ parking area.

The school wanted to lease the ground last year but was told it had been earmarked for District Six land claims (“’Playground’ earmarked for D6 claimants,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, September 20 2018).

Principal Nomthandazo Zweni said she was worried because the school appeared to be increasingly vulnerable to crime and teachers had to be on high alert 24/7.

“If it’s not the teachers being attacked, then it’s the school being targeted. Something needs to be done,” she said.

Ms Zweni said they needed more regular patrols from law enforcement and vagrants on nearby open ground should be moved.

Western Cape Education Department spokeswoman, Millicent Merton, said the incidents had been reported to the department’s Safe Schools Directorate and the police.

The WCED had also provided support and counselling to staff when required.

With regards to the school’s “playground”, Ms Merton said the school was on private property.

“Both the district and our head office have supported the school’s application to the City for the lease of land adjacent to the school for recreational purposes. We are still awaiting a response from the City.”

Ms Merton said the school did not have ground available for parking.

The City did not respond to questions from the Tatler at the time of going to print.