Lack of water cuts school day

Unhygienic conditions force desperate measures after problem remains unresolved for years

Despatch Primary School has been driven to desperate lengths by ongoing water woes, which have seen the school day cut in half and pupils urged to bring water from home.

Last week marked the first time since the start of the school year that the 1 019 pupils experienced water flowing from the school taps.

Acting deputy principal Cecil de Bruin said the school was also forced to send pupils home after first break due to the unhygienic conditions.

He said the sporadic water supply at the Reservoir Hills school was an ongoing problem dating back several years, which peaked last year with almost 40 days of each quarter ending early on account of no water.

Since the beginning of the school year, pupils in neighbouring suburbs including Daleview and Khayamnandi have been asked to bring water by bucket from home.

“We have written to the municipality a number of times and on Tuesday [last week] was the first form of assistance we received. They lent us two Jojo tanks to use,” De Bruin said.

“However, there is no connection equipment with them so . . . we can’t use them.

“We can only have school until first break because after that the toilets are in such a bad state, the unhygienic conditions make it unsafe for pupils.

“It is very hot in Despatch and that too poses a threat to their wellbeing.”

Grade 7 English teacher Venita van Wyk, who has been spearheading the effort to address the school’s water problems, said residents had recently come on board, dropping off water at the school twice a week.

“The community really do assist and we appreciate it, but something needs to be done, a solution must be found.

“I have been here since 2009 and the problem existed then,” Van Wyk said.

“The municipality is well aware of the situation but when we call, they say the water supply is on. But there is nothing coming out of our taps, so it must be an infrastructure issue.

“It doesn’t just affect the school – the whole of Reservoir Hills will have no water for days on end.

“While the water has been back since Monday . . . come [this] week we might be without it again.”

Grade 6 parent and Reservoir Hills resident Glennis September said: “What choice do we have but to send the pupils to school, even if is only for half the day? It’s not like they have water at home anyway. The water tends to come on at night, but is almost always off during the day.”

Questioned about the municipality’s plan to tackle the dire situation, spokesman Mthubanzi Mniki instructed the reporter to deal with municipal chief of staff Kristoff Adelbert.

However, Adelbert said on Friday he was on leave and advised the reporter to deal directly with the mayoral committee head for infrastructure, engineering, electricity and energy, Masixole Zinto.

Zinto failed to respond to questions by the time of going to print yesterday.

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