Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Security at schools is not the community’s responsibility


The call by officials to the community members each time there is a school opening ceremony or handover of high-tech equipment is: “Take care of this school.” The onus is suddenly on vulnerable people — who live in rural areas or townships where violence, criminality and unemployment are rife  — to protect the institution and its possessions.

Break-ins, vandalism and the burning of poor, under-resourced schools are not new in South Africa. In fact, a quick Google search seemed to point to this culture as being unique to this country on the continent. Schools become even more vulnerable to crime through public-private partnerships, whereby our schools are increasingly being equipped with Information Communication Technology (ICT) devices that support online learning and education technology services. 

The theft of ICT equipment and, most recently, personal protective equipment (PPE) meant to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 in our schools is rampant. In May, Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga said that 1577 schools had been vandalised during lockdown. In my hometown of Mdantsane in the Eastern Cape, criminals even steal the barbed wire fencing around schools. 

Covid-19 is accelerating the high unemployment rate and bellies are rumbling from hunger. In Zulu there is a saying, Indlala ibanga ulaka which, loosely translated, means hunger causes anger and violence. Our communities also have a drug and alcohol problem. Schools are particularly vulnerable because now, more than ever, anything of value is a target. Criminals see a weakness and an opportunity and they take it. This is made easier because parental and civil involvement is almost nonexistent in some areas.

But, are we naive in our expectations of our schools, parents and their surrounding communities when placing all these resources in impoverished areas, hoping for the best in the most unequal country in the world?

In addition to equipping our schools we need to ensure there is adequate security by professional companies.

Unlike our townships and rural areas which are often terrorised by gangs and criminals, quintile 5 and private schools are mostly located in leafy, gated suburbs. Yet, criminals live among us and are found in all parts of our society and these schools are not immune to criminality. So, they do the obvious thing — they invest in professional security; they don’t depend on the neighbours living in nearby homes or complexes or the workers from nearby office parks to protect their schools. 

We shouldn’t conflate community involvement (which is a factor in learner success) with the protection/security of schools. Community involvement does not refer to being in close proximity to the school building, but to actual participation and communication with the various parts of the school body.

There are already unrealistic expectations placed on under-resourced schools and the communities they exist in. Now, Covid-19 has thrown them yet another curve ball and these schools will be expected to take it on the chin and produce the results, despite the circumstances they find themselves in. 

We need to find another way to protect our schools.

Sean Mbusi is an edtech entrepreneur, founder at Kamva Education and a member of and contributor to Future Africa Forum, a non-partisan convening of young African leaders aimed at developing policies and agendas that advance the continent

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Sean Mbusi
Sean Mbusi is an edtech entrepreneur, founder at Kamva Education and a member of and contributor to Future Africa Forum, a non-partisan convening of young African leaders aimed at developing policies and agendas that advance the continent

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

Fears of violence persist a year after the murder of...

The court battle to stop coal mining in rural KwaZulu-Natal has heightened the sense of danger among environmental activists

Data shows EFF has lower negative sentiment online among voters...

The EFF has a stronger online presence than the ANC and Democratic Alliance

More top stories

Libyan town clings to memory of Gaddafi, 10 years on

Rebels killed Muammar Gaddafi in his hometown of Sirte on 20 October 2011, months into the Nato-backed rebellion that ended his four-decade rule

Fishing subsidies in the W. Cape: ‘Illegal fishing is our...

Fishers claim they are forced into illegal trawling because subsidies only benefit big vessels

Kenya’s beach boys fall into sex tourism, trafficking

In the face of their families’ poverty, young men, persuaded by the prospect of wealth or education, travel to Europe with their older female sponsors only to be trafficked for sex

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…