KZN children still battling to cross rivers to get to school
Durban - THIS time last year, the Department of Education came under the spotlight as footage of pupils crossing a swollen river in northern KwaZulu-Natal was shared on social media.
While the Department of Transport was making efforts regarding building pedestrian bridges over rivers became evident towards the end of last year when it launched a partnership with the SANDF to build 14 multi-million-rand bailey bridges in the province.
The construction of these bridges was part of commitments made by late MEC Bheki Ntuli during his budget speech for safe access to social services which included schools, clinics, police stations and the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa).
However, heavy rains still presented a challenge for pupils going to and from schools in the province.
This week, a video believed to have been taken in Melmoth was shared on social media. It seemed like a replay of last year’s footage as pupils suffered the same plight.
In the video, parents could be seen standing across the river watching their children stranded on the other side.
“As you can see we can’t get across, the bus can’t get across,” said the videographer.
A continuation of it showed the children crossing holding onto a rope stretching from one river bank to the other.
Dr Imran Keeka, the DA’s spokeperson on education, said the chronic decay of infrastructure and no funds to fix or build adequate roads, schools, clinics, and to supply textbooks, for example, was clearly symptomatic of a failing state.
“The opposite of what President Cyril Ramaphosa recently referred to as a capable state. To ensure pupils are not stranded like this, that they have furniture in classrooms, text books in their hands, clean and safe toilets and a classroom where water is not dripping on their heads, the looting of state funds through back room shady deals must stop,” he said.
Keeka said when the looting stopped there would be funds to reach the ideal of a capable state.
“The sooner South Africans realise that power lies in their hands to get rid of corruption through the ballot box, the better for everyone. Seeing this video clip is demoralising and I imagine it is worse for the pupils, their teachers and parents alike.”
Education spokesperson Kwazi Mthethwa said that heavy rains did make it difficult. “Floods are problematic.”
In 2019, the Daily News reported that four ferries bought to provide safe transport for pupils who cross rivers to and from school were rotting away in the parking lot of the Natal Sharks Board.
The boats, worth more than R2 million, were bought by the provincial Department of Education in 2017 after it found that pupils from more than 181 schools cross rivers and dams to get to class.
The department was yet to respond to queries regarding these ferries.