Angry Crossroads parents have hit out at the Department of Education and the City of Cape Town for not fixing a sewer which has been discharging raw waste at Sikelela Imizamo Yethu Primary School.
The irate parents locked the gate of the school on Monday when a protest erupted, with some parents and pupils burning tyres. All classes were immediately cancelled – including exams which were being written.
Organisers of the protest said they were not against education but were trying to protect the children’s health.
At the scene was Metro South Circuit Manager Akeda Isaacs who faced a barrage of criticism from furious parents, who also slammed the Education Department and the City for forcing vulnerable students to attend classes in such an unhealthy environment.
Community member Lwando Lufefe said while it was important for young people to get an education, it was equally important that they are healthy.
“This is putting the lives of our children at risk. We have been reporting this matter for the last three months. This started in October but it is still the same,” he told Vukani.
He threatened further disruption if the education department did not take remedial steps. “There will be no teaching here until this is fixed. Let’s find the solution with the education department and the City. If they do not respond positively, this will escalate to a real strike,” he warned.
School governing body chairperson Nobuhle Mbonyana emphasised that the health of teachers and pupils be taken seriously.
“These are our children. We want them to develop into the top teachers, lawyers, scientists, engineers and other careers. However, as parents we need to help tackle these kinds of problems that are facing them. Teachers are having difficulty teaching. The cooking staff find it difficult to cook. Children cannot eat in such an environment. This action is valid and it needs urgent attention,” she said.
Education officials there were also taken to see the problem.
Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson Millicent Merton said the cause of the problem were blocked drains in the road close to the school. “The WCED has been in contact with the City of Cape Town. The CoCT is attending to the blocked sewer and cleaning up,” she said.
Luthando Tyhalibongo, spokesperson for the City of Cape Town, said the City’s Water and Sanitation Department had been on site until 9pm on Friday and Saturday November 12 and 13, clearing the “stubborn blockage caused by inappropriate items in the sewer pipeline”.
He said items found blocking sewer lines in Gwayi Street, Crossroads included tyres and broken manhole covers.
“This was affecting the school’s property, as they are on the same sewer network,” he said, adding that arrangements had to be made for the team to be accompanied on site by law enforcement, or the community leadership or neighbourhood watch, as officials had been targeted by criminals while attending to work in the area.
“The neighbourhood watch accompanied the team on the weekend. The team was also affected by the failure of a mobile pump during repairs, and had to source a replacement.
“On Monday November 15 the teams were doing a follow-up in the area to confirm overflows have been resolved and discovered another stubborn blockage downstream from the location of the previous blockage. Resources will be deployed once more to address the issue dependent on the aid of Law Enforcement,” he said.
Mr Tyhalibongo said cleaning up and disinfecting of the affected areas would be done after the flow had been properly restored. He apologised to the community for the inconvenience.