Parents of learners from schools in Port Elizabeth townships are calling on the Education Department to implement stringent security measures as criminals target the schools.

About eight schools have fallen victim to crime in the past few months. In a recent incident, a school at KwaZakhele was robbed twice in one week.

Parents are concerned as the criminals mostly target primary schools in townships.

At BJ Mnyanda primary in New Brighton last month, two armed men walked onto the premises, pretending to be parents when the gates were opened, to allow access for grade R parents to fetch their children.

One person attempted to fire shots, but the gun was apparently not loaded. The perpetrators ran after seeing two police officers that were on the school premises to investigate another case.

Deputy principal, Veronica Maqokolo, says staff members and learners are still traumatised:

“We felt unsafe, even the learners were scared. We tried to organize that no parent must be in the premises. When we call a parent, they must bring a letter to the security and then the teacher must go and identify that, I have called this parent and she is coming to see that particular teacher.”

In another incident at Kaizer Ngxwana Primary in KwaZakhele, armed men entered the premises and robbed teachers of their cell phones and jewellery.

SGB chairperson, Odwa Duru, says the department needs to beef up security around schools:

“We need government, the municipality and all the stakeholders to meet together and try to come up with a solution. What we want to see is our schools being safe. We want to see government at all the schools putting up securities. Security gates, security cameras, so that we know what is happening at the school. If government can assist us in putting up those measures, we will be pleased.”

The Education Department has put up steel fencing to curb crime at schools throughout the province.

However, they believe communities also have a role to play in keeping the schools safe.

Malibongwe Mtima is the department’s spokesperson:

“Upon learning about this, as the department we have instructed our education development officials to converge meetings with communities and all stakeholders including organisations that are operating in these communities. We can start a dialogue around this issue to see how best we can assist communities, because everything in our society that is sanctioned by our communities comes to an end.”

During his visit to Port Elizabeth last week, Police Minister Fikile Mbalula said officers would look into gangs and criminals targeting schools:

“We cannot co-exist with people who bring terror to communities. Some people will speak to defend them because they are afraid, because if you speak they kill you. If you come to the police station some of the roll cops they report to them and kill you, so we must step in full might and make sure that we bring law and order.”

Police say they will work closely with community policing forums to fight crime in the affected areas.