Illegal PMB hostels raided

2008-04-23 00:00

Authorities have investigated illegal boarding houses after The Witness reported last Friday about hundreds of school children living in grim conditions across the city and northern suburbs.

The Social Development Department has launched an investigation into these establishments.

There are currently no boarding houses registered with, or approved by, the Msunduzi Municipality.

The Witness reported that parents from as far afield as the Eastern Cape accept accommodation in boarding houses in order to enroll their children in local schools. Many of the children appeared to be falling through the cracks as authorities were not addressing their plight, and seemed unaware of it.

Charging between R600 and R1 000 a month, boarding house owners can earn considerable amounts. For example, the owner of four establishments could be earning more than R150 000 a month, before expenses.

The Witness accompanied six social workers to three of the boarding houses in the city. Using a checklist, they investigated conditions, including sleeping accommodation, toilet and bathroom facilities and study and recreational facilities.

They questioned staff about the number of children accommodated in the establishments, their ages and genders, where they come from and how they are cared for, including security measures, transport, health, food and supervision.

The first establishment, 19 Boom Street, houses 21 girls in the main house and seven boys in an outbuilding. There are two bathrooms for the girls and one for the boys.

The boarders are reportedly aged from 16 to 22 and attend local senior schools and tertiary colleges. They come from the Eastern Cape and rural KZN and pay R600 a month for accommodation and food prepared by two domestic workers.

In the boys’ accommodation, there were empty beer bottles and evidence of dagga usage.

According to the owner, Joyce Gcabashe, at the beginning of the month she expelled four boys because they used alcohol and dagga and broke two windows.

She could not explain why there were still beer bottles and drug remains in the boys’ rooms. She said: “I chased those boys away because they were disturbing the others. I want students who want to learn. Their parents send them to me to prepare for their future … ”

She does not have permission to run the boarding house, which opened at the beginning of the year. Gcabashe said she will now try to make her boarding house legal.

The social workers also inspected two Light House boarding houses at 382 and 405 Boom Street, owned by Fiona Pillay.

The first houses 65 girls aged from 10 to 16, who come from the Eastern Cape. The second houses 52 girls. The boarders pay R650 a month and are cared for by Pillay and a house mother assisted by domestic workers.

Pillay said: “I would like to thank The Witness and the social workers for visiting the boarding house and observing for themselves … the premises where these children live. I would like to thank the social workers for their advice on upgrading the boarding house and registering the institution. I also want to thank the parents and the children for their support during this investigation … ”

Mandla Ngema, spokesman for the KZN Social Development Department, declined to comment, saying that he needs to wait for the report. “In about two weeks … we will be able to comment … ”

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