School children sent home when taps run dry

Ndlelayabasha Primary in Pietermaritzburg is struggling with water shortages

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Photo of a school
Children are sent home when the water tanks run dry at Ndlelayabasha Primary. Photo: Nompendulo Ngubane

With its three Jojo tanks, water lasts only a day or two at Ndlelayabasha Primary in Wilgefontein, south-west of Pietermaritzburg. The area has been struggling with water for three years. Many residents depend on water tankers.

Sibusiso Ntuli, principal at Ndlelayabasha Primary, said he has to phone every day to request a water tanker for the school. He said last year there were times when people in the community barred the water truck from supplying his school.

(Nearby Silwanetshe Primary School faces the same problem but did not wish to comment on the situation.)

“The school is being affected. We are forced to release pupils to go home,” Ntuli said. “We cannot function without water. We flush toilets and drink water. Cooks needs water to prepare food and wash the dishes. We are struggling and we wish that the situation be sorted out.”

Ntuli has applied for chemical toilets to alleviate water usage, but without luck. When GroundUp visited the school, some of the toilets had “Out of Order” signs on them.

“We have one pit toilet. We have decided that pupils in grade 7 use them when there is no water. Other pupils in lower grades cannot use a pit toilet. We fear they might fall inside the pit. The only option is to send them home. It has become really difficult,” said Ntuli.

Ward councillor Thabiso Molefe said, “I don’t know why it would reach a level where the children are affected. The school may be sending pupils back home because of their own issues. That should not be blamed on water … The principal should call my ward assistant and request a water tanker.”

According to Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha, the water crisis is caused by the drought. She said the schools were badly affected because they are on a hill and the water pressure is too low, but water tankers were supplying the area.

TOPICS:  Education Water

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