Caretaker finds dead body at school

The makeshift shelter in front of the mobile classroom where a mans body was found.

The body, presumably of a homeless man, was found in a makeshift shelter on the stoep of one of the mobile classrooms.

It was unclear how he had died.

The deputy principal at the school, Cedric Williams, said the caretaker had found the body when he opened the school in the morning.

“The caretaker said he tried to wake the man and shook him, but he wasn’t moving. We then called the paramedics and the man was declared dead.”

By 10am on Friday morning, children and teachers were sitting in the school hall and in the playground waiting for the police and forensics unit to remove the body.

Mr Williams said they have long had problems with homeless people on the grassy area bordering the school and Vista High School.

“We have been complaining about this for years. The area is enclosed and there is a fence, but it is inadequate. They find ways into the school and leave their mess here, and urinate and defecate on the school’s premises. We’ve reported it to the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) on numerous occasions.”

He said hopefully the incident was a wake-up call. “It’s sad because we didn’t expect someone to die on the property. This man was probably a parent too. The school had a moment of silence for him. However, we need help with the vagrancy problem. We need to keep our pupils safe.”

Principal Yeye Mgudlwa said the school was shaken by the incident. “The teachers as well as the pupils are traumatised. I feel bad for the caretaker who shook the body, thinking the man was sleeping.”

She said while there is security patrolling the area, it is still inadequate as people still find a way into the school. The fence, she said, was also broken.

“Every morning, the caretakers have to clean up faeces and debris left behind by the vagrants. The public indecency that happens here while children are in their learning environment is uncalled for.”

She said on Friday, they had to keep the gates locked so pupils did not enter the section of the school where the mobile classrooms are.

“The children obviously know what happened. We calmed them down and told them not to worry, but it is still disruptive. Eight classes of children are now in the school hall, and we have to reschedule break times.

“We also have a feeding scheme that starts in the hall at 10am, then all the children will have to move outside.”

She said she had spoken to the various role-players a number of times about the problem.

“The fencing isn’t strong enough to keep people out. We would like to have additional security and ongoing talks about how to keep the children at my school safe.

“Things like this compromises the safety of the pupils and staff.”

She said amid all the chaos and problems, the school staff felt bad for the man who had died. “Even though he may have been a vagrant, he was someone’s father, brother or son.”

She said she had reported the matter to the WCED, the Cape Town Central police and St Paul’s Anglican Church in Bree Street which owns the school.

Marilyn Fredericks of St Paul’s church said they are aware of the problems the school is facing with the homeless people on the grassy patch, and they were very concerned about it.

“We are meeting with the Parish Council to discuss the piece of land being leased.

“There is a gentlemen who wants to lease the land and build a wall around the school, but it’s still in early stages.”

She said the church itself does not make decisions about its property. “Applications or proposals have to go through the Diocese, so it does take a bit of time, but we are trying to get it fixed.”

She said there is a lot of work that needs to be done at the school, and the church is working hard to fix the premises.

“Earlier this year the church had revamped the mobile units where the man was found, so we are working at the school. It’s a process, but things are happening.”

The Cape Town Central police and the WCED did not reply to enquiries from the CapeTowner by the time we went to print.

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