Vandalism at 1 577 schools in the country was hampering efforts to get the remainder of the academic year underway, said Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.
She addressed the nation on Tuesday night about the reopening of schools on June 1, with Grades 7s and matrics being the first to return.
“Let me again condemn the vandalism that has taken place. Of these (schools), 463 are in KwaZulu-Natal and 336 are in Gauteng. This is truly a disturbing trend that will set us back in our efforts of trying to get back the academic programme.
“We appeal to members of the public to help the police and the Education Department bring the perpetrators to justice.
“With all this vandalism, we can’t send our stock far in advance because it won’t be very safe,” Mosthekga said.
Criminal elements had also impacted the crucial delivery of hand sanitisers for school management teams as stock could not be delivered too long in advance, said Motshekga.
Tuesday’s announcement came after Motshekga met with the Council of Education Ministers to consider the latest reports on the state of readiness for the reopening of schools.
She said the council had agreed that provinces should move at the same pace to ensure that “nobody is left behind”.
The delivery of Covid-19 essentials including sanitisers, masks, and water and sanitation were being attended to, while schools were being deep-cleaned.
“The National Coronavirus Command Council and Cabinet have approved the reopening of schools as of June 1, 2020. Independent and public ordinary schools will open even in the metropolitan areas.
“Every school must adhere and observe the health and safety protocols that will be put in place.
“We will start with grades 7 and 12 and small schools. The other grades will follow in due course.
“Learners and teachers who are in other provinces will be able to return to their residence. Arrangements are in place.
“All learners, educators, and support staff will receive orientation and training at the start of the school reopening, commencing with Grade 7 and 12,” Motshekga said.
The revised school calendar would be gazetted soon, she said.
“The regulations for level 3 are being finalised and we believe there will be a solution to this matter very soon. We understand that Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres also provide the necessary caring and feeding services for children from families.
“Due and careful consideration will be made to ensure that we maintain the delicate balance between allowing ECDs to operate, alongside the safety and health of the children and their caregivers.
“We are working together with the Department of Social Development on this matter as it straddles both departments at the moment.”
In the Western Cape, 104 incidents of burglary and vandalism at schools have been reported since March 20 when schools closed just before the national lockdown.
Provincial Education Department spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said on Tuesday fencing, electricity cables and computers were among the stolen items.
“The majority have been in the Cape Winelands District, followed by the Metro Central and West Coast districts.
“Many of the items stolen are those that are outside of the school building but within the perimeter of the school, such as fencing and garden tools or sporting equipment.
“Other items include electricity cables, computer equipment, security gates, and kitchen equipment. Costs of all damages are still to be determined,” Hammond said.
Western Cape Education Department (WCED) MEC Debbie Schäfer said: “We welcome the announcement by the minister of Basic Education regarding the date for the return of learners: 1 June for Grade 7s and 12s.
“It has been extremely difficult for the WCED to make preparations without a final approved date. Nevertheless, we have been doing a lot of work in preparation for the opening of schools, which I shall outline from tomorrow (today).”