July riots caused more than R100 million in damage to schools in KZN and Gauteng

Education department says this worsened its backlog on repairing over a thousand schools vandalised during lockdown

By Marecia Damons

4 August 2021

A staff member stands in an empty kitchen at Golden Steps school in Verulam after appliances and food were looted during the riots in July 2021. Photo: Supplied

Damage to schools in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng during July’s riots is estimated at more than R100 million and the cost of repairs at other learning centres at R53 million.

This was revealed at a media briefing ion Tuesday by the two provincial education departments on the impact of vandalism and theft at schools caused by looting in July.

Department of Basic Education (DBE) Deputy Director-General, Simone Geyer, said that in KZN, 155 institutions had been damaged and/or looted, of which eight were Education Circuit Management Centre offices, three were Education Support Centres, and 144 were schools and learning centres.

She said damage to school infrastructure in KZN included the burning of classrooms and administration buildings; the breaking of doors and windows; and the cutting of electrical cables. Schools mostly affected are in Umlazi, Pinetown, Ugu, King Cetshwayo, Umgungundlovu, Harry Gwala, Zululand, Uthukela, Amajuba, Umzinyathi, Umkhanyakude and Ilembe districts.

The most commonly looted items were electronics, kitchen resources, food items from the National School Nutrition Programme, equipment (stoves, fridges, microwaves, eating utensils) and Covid-19 essentials, said Geyer.

She said schools had been targeted by criminals since the start of lockdown in March 2020, and 401 schools in Gauteng had been targets of arson, vandalism and break-ins. This had not been budgeted for in 2021-22. “Additional funding and re-prioritisation of resources are required to address the affected schools.”

The department’s Dr Granville Whittle said more than 1,882 schools, mostly in KZN, Gauteng and the Eastern Cape, had been damaged during the lockdown.


Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu said the department was already battling with the effects of prior budget cuts and that the riots “completely collapsed our matric intervention winter programme planned for the holidays. We had to cancel everything.”

He said the infrastructural damage added to the existing backlog of repairs to schools damaged by criminals or badly weathered. “We have R6.3 billion less this financial year. Most of the things we had hoped to do have had to be kept in abeyance,” said Mshengu

The department’s Dr Barney Mthembu said from the estimated R100 million needed to repair schools, the highest preliminary estimates of damages were in Umgungundlovu, Ilembe and Pinetown districts, with R38,7 million in repairs need, R35.2 million and R14.9 million respectively. In some instances, repairs could take up to a year to complete, said Mthembu.

The nutrition programme had been affected by theft of plates, pots and spoons. “Some of the schools lost stoves used for the preparation of meals for learners,” said Mthembu. “The most affected centre was at Kwamashu education support centre. They ripped everything off. They even took cups and saucers.”


Provincial deputy director-general Albert Chanee said damages during the riots “were somewhat limited compared to KZN”. He said 65% of the vandalised schools had since been repaired, but it would be a costly process to repair the remaining schools.

“Vandalism and damage is unfunded. It’s part of emergency repairs, but we have not provisioned for this level. In the budget, we have to reprioritise, but we are also seeking additional funding,” said Chanee.

He said elements with scrap metal value like electrical cabling, copper pipes, aluminium frames, metal water fixtures and steel palisade fencing were stolen. Schools had also suffered damage to sanitation and in some schools, laptops, tablets for robotics, transformer cables, lights and fences had been stolen. “At one school, even the garden spades were stolen,” Chanee said.

He said over 7,500 patrollers had been deployed to townships and high-risk schools to try to prevent further vandalism.