Life hasn’t been easy for the children of Durban Deep Primary School on the West Rand of Johannesburg. With schooling in full swing nationwide, just over 1100 children were left to their own devices for nearly five weeks when parents became so desperate that they shut down the school.
Worms in water
This after a number of pupils were hospitalised with diarrhoea after drinking what’s believed to have been contaminated water from tanks. They claim to have found worms in the water.
The whole area of Durban Deep has been without water or electricity since 2012 leaving residents to rely solely on water tanks.
Klebogile Mogwera is part of the Student Governing Board of Durban Deep Primary School and explains that the children have been roaming the streets since the school closure.
“Some of the children travel to Roodepoort to ask people on the street for money so that they can buy something to eat. It’s not right, the children are all over – if you go into the community you will see them everywhere, dirty and playing in the streets.”
Crime rife in lawless Durban Deep
Durban Deep is completely plagued by warring illegal miners and gangsters with only remnants of its former self remaining. Community members have become so desperate by the no-shows of authority that they turn to Durban Deep based animal hospital and welfare organisation, Community Led Animal Welfare (CLAW).
Mogwera explains that without the school open, a lot of the children have sought refuge at the welfare organisation.
“During the school closure, the children traveled to CLAW every day for food because normally the children eat breakfast and lunch at the school. They depend on the school because there is no food at home; the parents are not working so every day they go to CLAW.”
On Sundays, CLAW runs a programme aimed specifically at the children of Durban Deep who bear the brunt of witnessing extreme violence which often includes the illegal crime of dogfighting.
Thieves target animal hospital for solar panels
Two weeks ago tragedy struck as CLAW was hit by 12 armed men who stole their solar panels, a precious resource.
The welfare organisation relies solely on public funding and this theft is a serious setback for the essential work they conduct, servicing nearly 39 areas in outreach programmes aimed at educating communities and assisting with primary vet care.
Cora Bailey, founder of CLAW explains that despite their best efforts to track the suspects’ nothing concrete came from it.
“For us, the implications of having no power are pretty dire. First of all the water is pumped into our taps through the solar pump and having no running water to scrub when you are conducting surgery is really hard.”
This is the fourth time their panels have been stolen creating a very difficult situation for the CLAW staff.
“Having no refrigeration for our medication is a problem, because a lot of the drugs we use need to be refrigerated and of course having no light during surgery it means the vet needs to operate using a miner’s lamp which is not ideal. Also, we have things like clippers when we have to put in a drip and clippers run on electricity. All in all, it’s pretty horrific not having power.”
“The next solar panels we get will literally need to be caged in as we’ve pretty much tried all sorts of prevention techniques – but when you have determined thieves it’s very difficult. At the moment we have been given a gas freezer which is for storing dead animals but obviously, we need the rest of our power.”
Fast forward a month of no schooling and the mood was jubilant amongst parents at Durban Deep Primary School on Friday as Johannesburg Water installed a new water meter.
Jacob Gaven, an operator, and plumber for Joburg Water was on site and explains that his crew works specifically by providing water and could not clarify when the toilets will be up and running:
“We (JHB Water) have the different departments, another team is working with the sewer and we work with the water. When we are finished these kids will have clean water. They must have clean water because they must not get sick.”
Promise of a generator for school
A clearly relieved Mogwera says that they are still waiting for a generator promised by the Departement of Education until then the school will be without electricity.
”I am happy; they are starting to listen to us at last. The parents have fought a long and hard journey for access to this precious resource of water for their children.”