Burglars are treating a Diep River special-needs school like a spaza shop, stripping it of everything from toilet rolls and pull-up nappies to electrical leads, TVs and DVD players.
Even a security gate was taken, says Glenbridge School principal Denville Dawson.
The school was still recovering from a burglary in March last year when it was hit again on Sunday February 11. And then the brazen thieves returned on the following two nights
“It was like opening a tin of sardines,” said Mr Dawson.
He showed where a crowbar had been used to force open a door and slice away a prefab panel beneath a window.
The thieves stacked a shopping trolley with reams of paper, first-aid equipment, toilet paper, nappies, bowls, electrical leads and adaptors. They even stole a security gate and gate motors, one of them on the night that it had been fitted.
In the past the school has lost TVs, DVD players and teaching materials, including children’s puzzles and crayons.
When the Bulletin visited the school last week, Mr Dawson paused to receive a hug from one of the boys, a daily occurrence.
He said the break-ins had been traumatic for the children as they needed peace and routine. Being moved to a different classroom disrupts this, as does the noise that comes with repairing the damage.
Mr Dawson said there was a major need for schools like Glenbridge, which has 80 children with autism on its waiting list. He has been with the school as head of department since 2008 and as principal since 2016.
Mr Dawson said the tracks left by the trolley the thieves had used to car off their loot were clear in the sand at the back of the school.
Irrigation equipment was stolen in a previous burglary along with the pool pump.
The pool is not only used for swimming but for therapy lessons for the autistic pupils.
Most of the school’s pupils come from some of the city’s poorest neighbourhoods, including Lavender Hill, Steenberg and Phumlani.
“People think that because of our location there is money here, but 47% of parents are exempted from school fees. Of the others, only 10% pay and the rest are in arrears,” Mr Dawson said. “We have one fund-raiser each term and were reaching our target
to buy paint for the school, but now these funds will go to security.
“But we must move forward and reach our goal to become a school of excellence for special-needs children in the southern suburbs.”
He added: “Are we being targeted for some reason or are we just an easy target?”
Charmaine Lillie, chairperson of Plumstead Neighbourhood Watch said the school’s fences and prefab walls were “no deterrent to thieves”.
The school will hold a fun day on Saturday March 3, from 10am to 2pm. Entry is free and everyone is invited.