Guard against stealing

‘At our school, nobody steals. Theft only happens at other schools.” Really? Sadly, that’s not true.

Theft occurs in all schools.
However, there are schools that keep incidents close to nil. At schools who have the other extreme, if a child returns home with everything he took with him that morning, he considers it a lucky day.

There was an incident when a child complained to a teacher: “Somebody stole money from my school bag!” There was an empathetic but no-nonsense reply. The learner was reminded of the often-stated school rule always to keep money on your person.

Why wasn’t the rule adhered to, the teacher wanted to know. Theft can be interpreted very narrowly. It can be seen as applying only to stealing physical items such as money, food, sports kit and school uniform. Yet there’s also intellectual theft.

Copying the maths homework answers of a classmate is a common one. Then there is the increasingly familiar plagiarism or “lifting” the work of others. Millions of students from primary school through to university level dabble in this deceit.

They steal the intellectual work of others and claim that it is their own work. They don’t acknowledge their sources. The internet is a plagiarist’s paradise of copy and paste.

SAQI (the South African Quality Institute) does school leadership and management programmes across the country. Poor schools are sponsored. For workshop details, contact either Vanessa du Toit (012-349-5006; or Richard Hayward (011-888-3262;

There is no free school lunch—source: Richard Hayward
How to manage and prevent stealing in schools

  1. Raise awareness: Talking about theft isn’t a pleasant assembly or classroom topic but it needs open discussion. Learners should speak to the teacher or the principal if there is something that is needed and that the home cannot provide. Let it be known that there is no need to steal. Ask and every effort will be made to meet a reasonable request.

  2. Instil lasting values: Honesty and respect are among the core values of a quality school. Emphasise values in the weekly assembly homilies and in the classroom. Values should not only be talked about; they guide the way in which learners and staff interact with each other.

  3. Teach responsibility: Unless a child is in grade one, Mommy should not have to trail behind her son picking up his sports equipment and uniform. It is the responsibility of the learner to look after personal property. That responsibility should not be dumped on to the teacher either.

  4. Children who need help: An emotionally balanced and happy child from a loving, supportive home background does not steal. The child who steals usually has behavioural and emotional issues that are cries for help. Counsel such a child. Stealing is usually symptomatic of much deeper issues.

  5. Take decisive action: Whatever the reasons for a child stealing, it is always unacceptable. The rights of others have been violated. Stealing is a serious offence and decisive action is needed. Theft should have consequences for the perpetrators. Under certain conditions body searches are allowed. When taking disciplinary action, guard against “naming and shaming” learners.

  6. Start a fund: Put money aside for children from impoverished backgrounds. If the school does not have a feeding scheme, make sure that such children have breakfast. If the school has an outgrown uniform shop, clothes can be given to poor children. Parents and sponsors could provide further items such as sports equipment or money for educational trips and tours.

  7. Mark personal property: Get the children to write their names or have name tags on all their personal property. Besides their school uniform, it includes sports kit and equipment as well as stationery. Have spot inspections to see that the items have been marked.

  8. Administer lost property: Too often, learners make false accusations that items belonging to them have been stolen, when the items have simply been mislaid. Clothes and sports equipment left lying around can be put into a lost property box. The learners pay a small fine to retrieve the items. In this way the learners should learn to be more responsible.

  9. Remove temptations: If the sports coach leaves equipment on the field at the end of a practice, she should not be surprised when it is gone the next day. Nor should the teachers who leave their classrooms, libraries and sports kit rooms unlocked be amazed when items disappear. Avoid temptation by having unattended rooms locked and equipment stored away. These and other such tactics won’t make theft disappear completely, but a school will be able to reduce theft enormously. Much of the teachers’ and learners’ valuable time is stolen by having to investigate theft incidents. Less stealing means that everybody has more time to focus on quality teaching and learning.

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