School suffers
theft of 11 ukes

By Nelson Daranciang

Thieves knew what they wanted and went straight for 11 premium ukuleles from Haleiwa Elementary School last month, said Hawaiian studies teacher Dorothy Awai.

"I had keyboards and autoharps out and 20 other ukulele, cheaper ones, but they focused on the Kamaka," she said.

The ukuleles, some of them 20 years old, are valued at more than $250 each, Awai said. They were stolen from a classroom on June 28.

All of the ukuleles have Department of Education property identification numbers etched on them, marked in indelible ink or on stickers. But Awai is not optimistic of their return.

"What upsets me is the pawnshops will take these," she said.

The instruments are usually secured in a locked closet in the classroom. Awai, known to her students as Kupuna Awai or Auntie Kanani, said she took the instruments out of the closet and put them into boxes after inventorying them. They were to be moved to the administration office while the classroom was being renovated.

When the classroom was broken into at 4:45 p.m., the janitor who got there five minutes later did not think anything was taken. That was on a Friday.

When Awai went to the school the following Monday, "As soon as I opened the door, I saw the box empty," Awai said.

The 11 ukuleles, in their cases, and two empty cases were gone. She said it appears the thieves entered through a window at the back of the classroom after failing to get in through a sliding wooden door. Awai said it would have taken more than one thief to carry the 13 ukulele cases.

Even before the thefts, the school did not have enough ukuleles for its students. Whenever there was an assembly, Awai said she had to select which students would get to perform.

"If any ukulele company, anybody, would like to donate, I will be so glad and thankful," Awai said.

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