Pupils’ perilous pathway to school
Ekhamanzi Primary School and Mphelandaba High School are across the Khamanzi River from the rural Khamanzi Mission near Seven Oaks where the children live.
Despite their challenge having been highlighted in a media report almost seven years ago when the Education Department said it would investigate the matter, the school’s former and current employees were yesterday still pleading for a bridge to be constructed.
Pupils have to partially undress to cross the river to avoid getting wet, while a few with financial means are able to hire transport to get to school. Ekhamanzi Primary governing body chairperson, Bheki Sithole, said the school had written to the Education Department several times but had not received a response. Sithole said the education and transport departments had indicated that “they had no money and that was the end”.
Current and former staff, who spoke on condition of anonymity, were concerned about the children’s safety and the impact on their education.
An official who works at the school said: “We have about 500 pupils at our primary school and about 100 of those pupils live across the Khamanzi River and most have to cross the river daily.
“In November last year, it rained heavily. Pupils almost did not write their exams because the river was flooded,” she said. “Fortunately, there were contractors who were doing work laying a water pipe in the area. They used one of their graders to help the pupils cross the river. “On the days it rains, the younger pupils do not come to school.” She said one child stopped attending school after she slipped and injured her knee while attempting to cross the river.
“We have a serious problem as we need the bridge. It’s been more than 10 years now that we are pleading for a bridge to be constructed in this area, but to date nothing has been done,” said the source.
IFP MPL and Education spokesperson Thembeni kaMadlopha Mthethwa said there were many schools in northern KwaZulu-Natal facing the same challenges.
“When it rains, pupils from those schools just don’t go to school because it’s not safe,” she said.
“In Umhlabuyalingana there’s a school that was supplied with a ferry boat. That ferry broke down and pupils are being ferried across by community boats which is not safe,” she said.
Education spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said the department’s internal infrastructure unit was assessing schools in need and would work towards providing pupils with some form of transport.
He said some schools had been provided with ferries.
Department of Transport spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane said he would check what progress had been made regarding the construction of a bridge.