The water supply to 167 schools in the Eastern Cape has been cut because the Department of Education has failed to pay an estimated R8 million in historic water debt owed to the Amathole District Municipality.
Despite being informed nearly a month ago that this crisis was looming, the Department has done absolutely nothing to stop it, and as a result thousands of learners are at risk of further interruptions to their learning.
Not having water means that these schools are in direct contravention of the Covid-19 guidelines and will have to close. Many have already done so.
The schools hardest hit by this decision are schools such as Healdtown High School and Thubalethu High School in Fort Beaufort, and Phandulwazi Agricultural High School in Alice, to name a few, which have hostels. Phandulwazi Agricultural High School have already sent their learners home.
A capable state would never have allowed the water accounts to get this high in the first place, and at the very least, would have taken immediate action to stop the disconnections from taking place when the matter was raised.
In this case, the municipality informed the then acting Head of Department, Dr Nuku, of their intentions of cutting the water supply to these schools in a letter dated 16 February, if no payment was forthcoming on 1 March 2021.
Due to the Department’s failure to act, the water to these schools will only be reconnected once the outstanding amount, plus interest, is paid in full.
I will be writing to the newly appointed acting HOD, Dr Mbude, to request that the Department urgently engage with the Amathole district municipality to come to a payment arrangement so that water provision can be resumed as soon as possible.
We cannot allow for the lives of these learners to continue to be put at risk, and have them lose even more learning time, because of the incompetence of the Department.
The DA will continue to fight for all learners in the province to have access to a quality education.