Worms in water spark protest shutting down primary school

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Water is an essential driving force of life and a basic human right but not all South Africans have access to the clear liquid gold. In Durban Deep on the Westrand of Johannesburg, parents have become so frustrated at the lack of clean water for their children that they have resorted to vandalism.

On Thursday, protesters burnt water tanks and portable toilets at Durban Deep Primary School. This, after claiming to have found worms in water of the tanks.

Adam Welkom, a community leader in Durban Deep, says that parents became angry after children started to get sick.

“The water in the tanks are rotten with worms inside, there are about 13 children that went to the clinic with stomach problems caused by the worms in the water.”

Education shutdown

Welkom explains that all schooling has been brought to a halt until their demands have been met.

“Parents implored that we stop the schooling until the MEC of Gauteng Education, Panyaza Lesufi, comes and enrolls the conduciveness of the school to the right. The parents are fighting for a school that has sanitation, water, and electricity – there’s no running water, no electricity and that is not normal for a school.”


Crime rife in lawless Durban Deep

The whole area of Durban Deep has been without water or electricity since 2012. The area is riddled with crime stemming from illegal mining and gangsters. Klebogile Mogwera, a member of the school governing board, fears for the children as they are now left to their own devices with the school indefinitely shut. The school has just over 1100 children.

“Daily life is very, very bad here. There are men from the illegal mining who rape the children in the broken down building just outside the school. We have asked authorities to demolish the building and to have two police members assist children when they need to go home but nothing has happened.”

Mogwera believes that the solution to their water woes lays a stone’s throw away from the primary school where extension 4 of Matholesville begins, an impoverished settlement with running water.

“They can join the pipe from extension 4 to run to the school, then the children can have access to clean water, it’s easy, they (Department of Education) told us they would do this during the December holidays, that there will be clean water for the children at the school, but it never happened.”

Police were monitoring the school on Friday after protesters burnt water tanks and portable toilets at Durban Deep. Photo by Nina Oosthuizen.

Lack of implementation

Sabelo Ntcana, Ward councillor of Durban Deep, says that they met with the Department of Education in late 2017 to discuss a way forward for the container school but are still waiting for plans to be implemented.

“This happened last year – there was a solution that these children would get a new school and during this time the kids would be relocated to surrounding schools. All the resolutions that were agreed upon were not implemented and that is causing the anger from the parents.”

Close to 30 children were playing around the entrance of the closed school on Friday with the police monitoring the situation. Other issues plaguing the school is overcrowding with at least 50 children per container. The community are set to meet on Saturday morning to discuss a way forward.

With the school closed, the children have nowhere to go and are seen outside the entrance of the school. Just over 1100 children on the Westrand have been left to their own devices as the school has been indefinitely shutdown. Photo by Nina Oosthuizen.