Durban – Nearly 900 pupils from St Augustine’s Catholic Primary School in Greyville Durban have been sitting at home for two weeks due to a blocked sewerage line that has caused raw sewage to flow into the school.
The Mercury visited the school Wednesday and spoke to the School Governing Body (SGB) and parents about the matter.
SGB member Nomathemba Makhanya said the issue began on May 11 when raw sewage began seeping through school drains, on to the assembly area, netball court, front lawn and into the school hall.
Makhanya said the situation worsened the next day when pupils and teachers started getting sick.
“The learners were becoming sick because of the smell. Some were vomiting and some had headaches. The parents were told to come and fetch the children from school,” she said.
According to Makhanya, the municipality has come out to the school several times but the issue has not been resolved.
She said parents were concerned that children were at home, unsupervised. While teachers have sent some school work home, some parents are not equipped to assist their children, she said.
“The examinations are around the corner and that’s another problem. Now we are approaching the end of the second term and there is no work being done,” said Makhanya.
She expressed disappointment with the Department of Education, which she said has not been to inspect the state of the school.
Parent and former SGB member Craig Esbend, whose daughter attends the school, said he has over the years reported the issue of a blocked sewerage drain in the road above the school.
Esbend says sewage has been spilling from the drain on and off for the last three years.
“Every time I pick up my daughter up from school, there is dirty water running. Sometimes you see faeces floating and there is a really bad smell,” he said.
“This is bad management by the municipality which should have taken care of this problem. This is three years in the making,” he said.
Thulani Nxusa, who has two children attending the school, said he had reported the current issue to the municipality on several occasions.
He said he had also reported the matter to an inspector from the Department of Education.
Nxusa said the children couldn’t be allowed to come back to school while it was in its current state.
“It’s dangerous. Who is going to watch the children like a hawk to make sure they stay away from the sewage?” he asked.
Another parent, Emmanual Mkhize, said: “We want the municipality to come and fix the problem. They are not doing their job and the school is affected because of them.”
EThekwini Municipality’s head of communications, Lindiwe Khuzwayo, visited the school yesterday with an official from the Water and Sanitation unit to address parents and the school’s leadership.
“The issue is quite bad. Our teams have already been working on it for three days and they are going to continue working on it until it's unblocked.
“The blockage is not just in one place; it's a blockage in the sewer line and it's in several places. Why it's taking such a long time to unblock it, is that the rubble that is in the line is quite thick and there is a lot of it,” she said.
Khuzwayo further explained that every time there was a spill at the school, the City unblocked it and soon after it was blocked again.
She said to solve this issue “once and for all we need to do a proper job and that's going to take a bit of time which is why it's taking a few more days than we would like,” she said.
She apologised to parents, pupils and teachers for the time this issue was taking to fix.
“We really apologise for the impact that it has had on teaching and learning but also on hygienic conditions in the school. We are working on it until it's cleared and whatever it takes, we are going to unblock this line,” said Khuzwayo.
The Department said the situation needed to be addressed by eThekwini Municipality.