Joining forces in loving PMB

2019-11-20 06:00
Simon Moore principal of St John’s D.S.G. (left), Laura Bekker (Epworth head of school) and Allen van Blerk (St Charles College principal) are behind the #LovePMB initiative.PHOTO: supplied

Simon Moore principal of St John’s D.S.G. (left), Laura Bekker (Epworth head of school) and Allen van Blerk (St Charles College principal) are behind the #LovePMB initiative.PHOTO: supplied

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ST John’s Diocesan School for Girls consulted with neighbouring schools such as St Charles College and Epworth to form a non-profit company, Love Pietermaritzburg (#LovePMB), with the aim of addressing issues of city-wide importance, including a comprehensive strategy and solution to the challenges of the existing New England Road Landfill Site and to act in the interests of protecting the environment.

Danielle Ashton of St John’s D.S.G. said the company is the vehicle through which schools are able to take legal action to enforce their demands.

She highlighted that it is important to realise that this is not a St John’s D.S.G., St Charles College or Epworth problem; but a city problem.

“We will be calling on all educational institutions in the city to join us as partners so that together we can effectively act on issues that affect Pietermaritzburg schools and, by implication, every family in the city,” said Ashton. Adding that they recognise that this isn’t a short-term project but a long-term commitment which has, as its highest objective, to bring meaningful, ethical and lasting change with regards to some of the very real challenges residents and children face.

Ashton also alleged that the fire at the dump site is symptomatic of many years of mismanagement, no management, corruption in supply chains and lack of accountability at the political level within Msunduzi Municipality.

Furthermore, Ashton said in their meetings with municipal officials, it was acknowledged that mismanagement of the dump site has led to the problems experienced now.

“In a number of these meetings held, placatory promises were made and assurances given that the issues would be addressed. It soon became clear, however, that the landfill has not been a municipal priority, with one official we met admitting that issues such as housing, water and sanitation take precedence over the landfill issue,” said Ashton.

She also explained that they have engaged with a number of stakeholders to gather information on the state of the dump site such as The Institute of Natural Resources, NGOs Built Environment Support Group and GroundWorks, uMgungundlovu District, Msunduzi Municipality, KZN Department of Environmental Affairs, environmental scientist and air quality specialist, Andrew Simpson, and more. According Ashton, initially they decided to take a co-operative approach, looking for solutions from the relevant decision-makers.

“All the municipal officials we engaged with have, in one way or another, acknowledged that the landfill is mismanaged and should have been closed, capped, rehabilitated and a new landfill site found at least five years ago,” said Ashton.

Comment from the municipality was not received at the time of going to print.

Although the three schools have pledged funds to this initiative, Ashton said they wish to emphasise that no school will be excluded because of their inability to contribute financially to this initiative.

“We believe many of the pupils from low-fee schools may be the most vulnerable to the effects of the dump site particularly schools downstream of the dump site in Sobantu, and we wish for these schools to join their efforts with ours to seek an end to this problem,” said Ashton. Adding that information in this regard will be shared as soon as the entity is set up, but in the interim they ask parents who wish to commit in any way to email business manager, Naomi Hardman on nhardman@stjohnsdsg.com

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