Management at ACJ Phakade Primary School in Nomzamo is worried about the health of the learners as the school continues to battle sewage on its premises.
According to school authorities, the problem has been ongoing since the start of the rainy season. Raw sewage is mixed with flood water and is now covering most parts of the school. The school claims it reported the matter to the provincial departments of Public Works and Education as well as the City of Cape Town without any assistance.
As teachers and learners returned to school on Monday 26 July, they had to take evasive action to avoid contact with human waste flooding most of the school yard, including the school’s feeding-scheme kitchen.
They also had to contend with the terrible stench around the school.
School principal Thobile Majingo told City Vision he was disappointed by an apparent lack of support from the provincial authorities.
“This is very bad,” he said. “We have long reported this matter to Public Works and the Department of Education, but we don’t see any movement to address it. Human waste is overflowing all over the place and it is really terrible.”
Majingo said he had hoped the matter would be resolved before Monday’s school reopening. However, things had not been resolved by Monday afternoon, and he have loved to have seen this issue “sorted out before school re-opened.”
Xanthea Limberg, the City’s Mayco member for Water and Waste, blamed the problem on a combination of factors. She said the main factor is the illegal occupation of an adjacent stormwater retention dam over the last 12 months.
“The stormwater design for the road is to contain up to one-in-five-year rain events,” she said. “If the inlets or outlets get blocked, the overflow is supposed to go into the detention pond, however, the land invasion is preventing excess stormwater from flowing into the pond. The land invasion further compromised the stormwater with increased dumping of solid waste into the canal.” Limberg claims the occupation has also blocked the City’s access to the stormwater canal running next to the school for standard mechanical cleaning.
She further states that the lockdown regulations prevented the removal of the occupiers if another site is not provided. Limberg added that stormwater throughout the city, especially in areas affected by recent land invasions, is potentially contaminated by sewage due to blockages/overflows and disposal of human waste into canals.
She said the canal is earmarked for regular maintenance, which now has to be a hand cleaning operation. “However, work at the canal cannot take place as there are electrical wires in the canal from the illegal connections to the structures. The City is investigating its options to clean the canal while prioritising the safety and health of staff. The cleaning of the canal, however, is only a short-term solution and won’t prevent the flooding in the long term.
“Finally, observations by City engineers indicate that the school’s construction also did not properly consider effective drainage. This has been raised with the school”.
Millicent Merton, spokesperson for the Western Cape Education Department, says the school has been engaging via “our Infrastructure component with the City of Cape Town.
“The clearing of the water-retention pond adjacent to the school is a municipal function,” she explained. “The stormwater level has a knock-on effect on the sewer system. This situation is untenable and must be directed to the city for resolution.”