Poorest children suffer when schools are vandalised, MPs told
The most vulnerable children in society are punished by the vandalism and theft at schools which escalated during the Covid-19 lockdown and last month’s unrest and looting, say MPs.
The portfolio committee on basic education is planning an oversight visit to Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal to assess the damage to school property after receiving a briefing from the department on Tuesday.
Committee chairperson Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba said: “It is shocking that the cost of damages and vandalism to schools is estimated at more than R141m.
“This is money that was not budgeted for. Money government does not have and money that could have been spent on other much-needed projects.
“As public representatives we need to have serious discussions in our constituencies that members of the public cannot target much-needed infrastructure, especially schools, when they vent their frustrations for whatever reason.
“We cannot be comfortable with the current situation. Schools always end up being soft targets during protests and it is the poorest pupils who suffer.”
According to the department, it was repairing more than 1,700 schools damaged during the Covid-19 lockdowns of 2020 when the riots struck last month.
The department told MPs the protests and looting affected 137 schools and offices in KwaZulu-Natal, with one school in Pinetown burnt to the ground. Four schools in Gauteng were affected but there was no major structural damage.
Damage includes the loss of electric wiring, admin blocks, doors, roofs, ceilings, ablution facilities and sanitary fittings.
Looting occurred during the protests and stolen property includes laptops, computers, projectors, sound systems, routers, furniture , wire, transformer tables, lights and garden equipment.
Kitchen resources and equipment like stoves, fridges, microwaves, eating utensils, food items and Covid-19 essentials including sanitisers, soap and masks were also stolen.
The committee expressed concern that food and equipment were looted that are used to feed pupils as part of the National School Nutrition Programme.
“The programme caters for the most vulnerable pupils in our schools. For many of them, these are the only meals they receive. How can responsible communities take the food out of the mouths of very vulnerable young ones?”