Criminals dampen Gauteng's smart school efforts

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Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi.
Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi.

Thieves have targeted the Gauteng Department of Education's (GDE's) latest smart school, stealing over a hundred smart devices this week.

Menzi Primary School, opened last week, is the GDE's R105 million ICT-ready school located in Tsakane in the City of Ekurhuleni. The school boasts facilities such as 33 smart classrooms, a grade R block with five classrooms, two smart science labs, two smart multi-purpose rooms, a library and dining hall.

However, following a break-in at the school, some of the resources are now missing. According to the GDE, all 185 learner tablets, eight teacher laptops, two data projectors, three desktop computers, a plasma TV, petty cash of less than R500, and a digital video recorder were stolen.

"These are educational facilities aimed at enhancing the quality of education, and life of children in the township. We are extremely disappointed that criminals can disrupt the education of learners in this community. However, we challenge members of the community to assist and hunt the robbers, by Friday, 18 January 2019, failing which, we will have no choice but to withdraw all expensive equipment from the said school," says MEC Panyaza Lesufi.

Recurring issue

Over the last few years, Gauteng's education department has been championing ICT adoption in schools across the province.

This initiative, according to Lesufi, aims to improve skills development and change the country's historic reliance on traditional sectors for job creation. Introducing schools like Menzi primary falls in line with such efforts.

These goals, however, have been hindered by several issues.

Shortly after the ICT programme was introduced in 2015, schools became prime targets, and criminals started setting up syndicates in communities to steal smart boards.

Lesufi also said smart devices went missing as a result of learners handing them over to loan sharks.

At Menzi Primary School's opening last week, Lesufi urged parents and community members to protect the school's infrastructure and resources. "I am pleading with you to protect these schools. If you see someone vandalising these schools, report them to the police," he said.

By protecting the schools, Lesufi continued, the community would ensure learners have a shot at competing in the fourth industrial revolution.

In regards to this latest theft incident, the GDE says two patrollers were allegedly tied up and locked in one of the strong rooms.

The department further explains that the criminals broke the main volt door to access the keys of the entire school, opening all the other volts with the keys.

The main areas broken into are the administration block and IT offices where the tablets are charged. There is evident forceful entry on the doors of all the areas the thieves targeted, it states.

The GDE reveals that a case has been opened at the Tsakane police station. "It is sad to say currently the grade seven learners do not have any textbooks as their e-books are gone with the tablets. The department will work with law enforcement agencies to bring the perpetrators to book."

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