Protective equipment for schools in KwaZulu-Natal goes ‘missing’

The KwaZulu-Natal department of education will appoint a multidisciplinary team to investigate the disappearance of a large quantity of personal protective equipment (PPE) intended for schools. 

The protective equipment vanished enroute to circuit offices and schools in the uMlazi, Pinetown and Zululand districts, according to a statement by the department. 

Kwazi Mthethwa, the department’s spokesperson, said on Tuesday that the department discovered this on Monday when schools and circuit offices were contacted to ascertain whether they had received protective equipment and in what quantities. These phone calls revealed that there is a mismatch between what was to have been delivered, and what was received. 

“Someone knows where these things are between the school and the circuits. That is why we have opted for an investigation to reveal who is responsible for this, instead of pointing fingers,” said Mthethwa. 

The department said it will not only cost it millions of rands to replace the protective equipment — money it does not have — but it will delay the opening of schools on Monday (June 8) for grades seven and 12. Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said at a press briefing on Monday (June 1) that no school will be allowed to open if it does not meet the safety and health regulations to minimise the spread of Covid-19. In his weekly newsletter, President Cyril Ramaphosa also said no schools will open if they are not Covid-19 compliant. 

Mthethwa said the schools in the three districts would probably remain closed unless the equipment was recovered before June 8. 

“Not a single school in KZN is going to open without PPEs, we will not do that,” he said.

This latest incident comes after more than 450 schools in the province were broken into and items such as food and computers were stolen. Protective equipment was stolen in a recent burglary at two schools. 

Last week, a man who tried to break into a school in Estcourt to steal protective equipment was beaten to death by residents, Mthethwa said. 

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Bongekile Macupe
Bongekile Macupe is an education reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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