Vuselela Primary School principal Yolisa Nabe and school secretary Boniswa Phuthumani were left shaken when two armed men stormed on to the school premises, demanding cash and other valuables, on Friday May 6.
The men ordered the pair to hand over the keys for the strong room, where most of the school’s valuables, including school fees and the safety deposit box, are kept.
The men apparently demanded money that had been raised on the day as part of the school’s fundraising initiative. The men entered the school as pupils were going home.
When Vukani visited the Khayelitsha school on Monday May 9, Ms Nabe and Ms Phuthumani were traumatised and reluctant to speak about their ordeal.
However, Ms Nabe told Vukani that to raise funds, pupils paid R2 every Friday to wear civilian clothes instead of their school uniforms.
The money goes towards the school budget, however, the amount does not even reach R1 500.
Ms Nabe said she was busy in her office when Ms Phuthumani was shoved into her office by the men who demanded money. She said they told them that they did not have the keys for the strong room, prompting the thugs to search their bags.
“They searched our bags thoroughly, taking R530 and a cellphone from my bag. They also took R700 from the secretary’s bag. But they kept searching for the keys of the strong room. I told them that the money had been deposited already to the school account , but they did not want to believe me,” she said. When they could not get the keys, Ms Nabe said they smacked her, hurting her upper lip and leaving her in pain.
Ms Nabe believes the robbery could have been an inside job as only staff knew who kept the keys to the strong room.
She described the ordeal as shocking and unbelievable.
“I have been at the school for 29 years and 12 years as the school principal. This incident is the first of its kind,” she said.
She said the school only have security guards at night, leaving it prone to attacks during the day.
Jessica Shelver, spokeswoman for Education MEC Debbie Schäfer, condemned the incident.
She said the department was working tirelessly to protect the pupils and the teachers. She said counselling has been arranged for the victims. “The school has a designated person opening and closing the gate and the pupils had been gone by the time of the incident,” she said.
“The department is doing everything possible to protect our teachers and pupils while on the school property, but we do need the assistance of all stakeholders to ensure pupil safety,” she said.
Khayelitsha police station communications officer, Lieutenant Marcellus Rajap, confirmed the robbery.
“One cellphone and R1 230 were taken. No shots were fired and a case of robbery has been opened,” he said.
Chairperson of the school governing body (SGB), Funeka Nceke, said they were puzzled by the incident. She said the school was not part of the neighbourhood watch and were thinking of asking some parents to help guard it.
“This is unacceptable. This is a place of learning and now we feel that the safety of our pupils and teachers is at risk, “ she said.