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Attack On School For The Deaf

February 23, 2007

21/02/2007 11:30 AM – (SA) 
reyana nacerodien

PUPILS of the Dominican School for the Deaf in Wynberg had a rude awakening after their Valentine’s Day fun when the school was hit by vandals and arsonists in the early hours of Thursday morning.

The school is one a handful of special schools that cater for deaf children in the province.

Hostel staff and pupils were woken Thursday morning by firemen and police who were trying to put out a fire which had started in the school psychologist’s therapy room.

Magrieta Kampies, one of the resident hostel staff, said, “I was on my way to the bathroom at about 05:00 and I heard noi?ses outside. I looked through the window and saw police vans. I went to have a bath, but kept hearing people shouting outside. When I went back to my room I saw the firemen at St Martin’s and all I could see there was smoke.”

What Kampies saw were the local firefighters trying to extinguish the fire in the junior school building, called St Martin’s.

Ruth West, the school’s principal, said that the vandals broke a window to gain entry into the school.

“They threw everything out of drawers and cupboards in the classrooms and left a complete mess. They made a fire in our the?rapy room, where the school psychologist keeps all the children’s progress reports, medical information and other documentation. Luckily most of those reports were protected by the filing cabinet in which they are stored, but those reports that were not in the cabinets were completely destroyed”.

Said a frustrated West: “Burglaries happen in all schools, but the fire is particularly unacceptable. How can they do this to a school for the disabled?”

Later on Thursday morning, pupils were confronted by police barrier tape which cordoned off the area so that evidence could be gathered.

Teaching was brought to a standstill and had still not returned to normal on Friday.

All the children in the affected classrooms were moved into the school hall, where teachers tried to continue teaching with limited resources.

The Wynberg Police are investigating the case. Inspector Ezra October, spokesperson for Wynberg Police, told People’s Post, “We know that police got a call from a payphone at Wittebome station alerting them to the fire.

“We believe that entry was gained by breaking a window that had no burglar bars, using some sort of tool. From that classroom, entry was obviously gained to other rooms because the windows between classes were removed, probably with the same tool.”

Police are not sure what the culprits were looking for, but suspect the incident may have been an act of vandalism.

“Sniffer dogs did not detect any substances used to start the fire and we don’t know why it was started, but only paperwork that was left out was destroyed. The other paperwork was protected by the filing cabinets”.

This year marks the school’s 70th birthday – an event which West says has been dampened by last week?s vandalism.  

“We had a lot of events planned to celebrate our birthday, but now we will have to use that money to do emergency repairs,” she said.