City cuts water supply after school fails to settle R2 million account

2020-01-21 15:00
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Georgetown High School pupils and teachers have been without water because the school owes Msunduzi Municipality about R2 million.

It has emerged that the KwaZulu-Natal Education Department has failed to settle an outstanding water account for the Edendale school, resulting in the disconnection in early December.

And while the school community had hoped that the matter would be resolved in time for the new year, when pupils and teachers arrived at the school last Monday the taps were still dry.

Education Department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said the department was aware of the problem.

“The district is working on the matter. We are positive that it will be resolved by the end of the week,” Mahlambi said.

Now the toilets at the school are blocked and they stink. When The Witness visited the school on Monday, a heavy stench hung in the air.

Teachers and pupils left early because they are unable to cope with the unhygienic conditions in the school.

Georgetown, with 1 300 pupils, is a Section 21 school and classified under quintile 3 as a no-fee institution. The school achieved a 97% pass rate in the recent matric examination.

“It is disgusting. The toilets are stinking. How are we expected to use blocked toilets? All of us will have to stay at home until this problem has been resolved,” said one fuming teacher. “We have to bring our own water from home. The process of teaching and learning is not conducive enough for anybody. We are working under a very serious situation.

“It is surprising that the municipality claims the school owes so much. There is running water here for more than five years and it has never been attended to,” interjected another teacher.

The school is now operating for two hours daily, and last week pupils allegedly fainted due to the heat.

“We have a pregnant colleague and she has to drive outside the school to find a toilet and water. The municipality and the Education Department really need to take measures to remedy the situation,” said the teacher.

Last Friday, the situation at the school threatened to get out of hand when pupils protested and boycotted classes.

A delegation of teachers also went to the district Education Department office to raise their concerns about the issue. A Grade 9 pupil said they were forced to relieve themselves in the bush, risking their safety and losing class time.

“I’m asthmatic and last week I suffered an attack. I had forgotten my pump at home and the fact that there was no water made it worse. Drinking water helps alleviate asthma symptoms,” said the pupil.

Botsotso Mahlaba, the school governing body treasurer, said that without water the school is unable to provide meals for the pupils.

According to his knowledge, an agreement was reached between the department and the municipality in 2016 to reduce the debt.

Mahlaba said they also suspect that some residents are stealing water from the school’s supply.

He said while they acknowledged that the school account is in arrears, no prior notification was given that the water would be disconnected.

“How do you provide a child with an education when there is no water? Why cut off the water when it’s going to jeopardise the education?” asked Mahlaba.

“They [pupils] can’t afford to pay school fees and the department is failing to play its part.”

Acting Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Ntobeko Ngcobo said the last payment was made in April 2018.

She said the municipality had been communicating with the school, inviting them to come forward and make arrangements for payment.

“The final letter of demand was issued in November 2019 and the school still did not respond,” Ngcobo said,

She added that an agreement has been reached with the Education Department that the school’s water supply would be reconnected.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg
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