Fear grips school after thugs rob teacher

School principal Thabo Bashe with a member of the neighbourhood watch forum, Toto Raboyiya, talking to Vukani.

Fear has gripped teachers and pupils at Dr Nelson Mandela High Shool, in Crossroads, after two armed boys jumped over the school fence and assaulted a teacher before grabbing his belongings, despite a high security presence at the school.

When Vukani visited the school on Tuesday August 16, the day after the robbery, teachers said they were rattled by the incident and were now working in fear.

The teacher was apparently ambushed by the robbers while he was on his way to the class, and they demanded money and his cellphone.

However, when he refused to hand over his belongings, a scuffle broke out, with the boys eventually overpowering him and fleeing with his cellphone and wallet.

Now terrified teachers have called on the community to help identify the perpetrators and to ensure that the school environment is conducive to teaching and learning.

Principal Thabo Bashe, who was in his office at the time, said the attack on the teacher took place around 9am.

When he heard screams, he went to investigate what was going on and saw his colleague, who was bleeding profusely, being carried by pupils.

The incident has left the teachers and pupils understandably shaken, with some being reluctant to return to class afterward.

“The teacher suffered minor injuries to his head and after he fell down, they kicked him countless times (and) also beat him with the gun they were carrying.

“The criminals entered the school by jumping over the fence at the back of the school and they also jumped over again when they left.

“We are just glad that no one died.

“We quickly rushed the teacher to hospital where he received medical attention, but he has been discharged and will return to work this Friday.

“We alerted the police and I must say, they responded quite (quickly) and they have advised us to open a case at the Nyanga police station. We are appealing to the community to please work with the members of the neighbourhood watch forum to curb crime in township schools,” he said.

Mr Bashe explained that between January and May last year, the school was robbed eight times, resulting in some teachers wanting to resign because they feared for their safety.

“Computers and some teaching material had been stole from the school last year.

“An NGO that conducts afternoon classes at the school had also been victims of crime as their computers had been also stolen.

“As I’m speaking to you, teachers were saying to me that they were unwilling to conduct afternoon classes because they don’t know whether they would be safe,” he said.

Despite all the incidents having been reported to police, he said, no one had been arrested and they had little faith that the perpetrators of the latest incident would be caught. Mr Bashe said he believed the perpetrators were former pupils who had dropped out and were familiar with the school’s routine and layout.

After last year’s break-ins, he added, he was told that the intruders were past pupils.

At the time, the education department had deployed two law enforcement officers at the school, whose efforts were boosted by patrols by the neighbourhood watch, making the school community feel safer. But now, he said, that sense of security has been shaken.

Jessica Shelver, spokeperson for Education MEC Debbie Schäfer, confirmed the incident at the school, adding that:

“We are extremely concerned that this incident took place on the school premises as the school is currently patrolled by 12 neighbourhood watch members, two School Resource Officers and two Chrysalis Safety Officers. SAPS were contacted and responded swiftly,” she said.

Communication officer at Nyanga police station, Captain Ntomboxolo Sitshitshi, confirmed to Vukani that a case of robbery with a firearm was opened after an educator was robbed of his cellphone at Dr Nelson Mandela High School. “It is alleged the educator was from the office to the classroom when he was approached by two unknown men, one pointed him with a firearm while the other was searching him. The suspects robbed his cellphone and fled,” she said.