‘We won’t let our children suffer’

Tired of waiting for the state to provide their children with basic services, parents in a school in Soweto have once again taken matters into their own hands and illegally supplied water to the school.

The Mail & Guardian reported on the plight in June last year. It was without water and electricity and it had resorted to drawing power illegally from a house three streets away to have electricity at least in the staff room and administration block.

The school, which is in an RDP area, opened in 2012 and has never had these basic services.

It used to rely on tankers delivering water but for a week in November it did not receive the usual 17 000 litres. The chairperson of the school governing body (SGB), Sarah Blom, said: “Parents started asking questions about why the school was letting kids go home early, and the school as well as the SGB could not answer them because we did not know what was happening. We were not warned that water would be stopped so we could not give parents an answer.”

The parents decided to take the matter into their own hands.

“Parents collected one rands, five rands and bought a pipe and local plumbers connected it from a water pipe that is outside the school and that’s how the school got water supply,” Blom said.

“The school and SGB were not part of that decision. Parents told us that the department was crazy to think that they will just leave their kids to suffer and expect parents not to do anything about it. It’s parents who took the decision to illegally connect water after seeing their children suffer and now the school has running water and toilets flush.”

Last year, the Gauteng MEC for education, Panyaza Lesufi, said in the provincial legislature that the City of Johannesburg was dragging its feet over connecting several schools to water even though the department had called for it do to so. Lufhereng was on that list.

But the city told the M&G last year that the education department had not applied for connections and that was why the schools had neither water or electricity.

Since then, some schools have been connected to water and/or electricity. The Glenvista Primary School now has water, which was connected in January, but no electricity. Spokesperson for City Power Sol Masolo said that although the utility had received an application for connection it was still being processed.

Electricity was installed at the Goza Primary School in the Freedom Park informal settlement, south of Johannesburg. But, according to the chairperson of the school 
governing body, Joseph Mshipisa, the school still needs water.

He said that they were told the school did not have electricity because it was on the same stand as another school. He did not know what the excuse was for the school not to have water now that electricity has been supplied.

Hendrik Nel of Johannesburg Water said although it was possible to install two meters on one stand, billing would be difficult because there were two “owners” on the stand.

The Kibler Park Secondary School now has electricity but is still without water. Johannesburg Water said that the education department claimed it had applied but did not provide proof of its application.

City Power and Johannesburg Water said this week they still had not received applications from Lufhereng and the Protea Glen Primary School, which was the case last year when the issue was first raised.

The Protea Glen school relies on water tankers and is getting electricity illegally from a nearby house.

According to the department of basic education’s 2013 norms and standards for public school infrastructure, all schools must have some form of power and sufficient water, the provision of which must comply with all relevant laws.

The provincial department, in its 2016-2017 annual report, claimed all schools in the province have water and electricity. Schools without running water were provided with alternative sources, such as water tankers.

The department said it also provided alternative sources of power to schools without electricity. But that is not always the case. Some schools, such as Goza, had a generator before getting electricity but others did not.

The provincial education department had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

Bongekile Macupe
Bongekile Macupe is an education reporter at the Mail & Guardian.
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