Waterless Witbank: schoolchildren told to stay at home ‘until further notice’

24 February 2017 - 11:43 By Naledi Shange
An empty classroom. File photo.
An empty classroom. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

School pupils in Witbank have been told to stay at home until the city's water crisis has been resolved.

Several schools have lost days of lessons as taps have run dry and toilets have become unsanitary.

The latest school to close its gates is Laerskool Reynorif.

The school sent a text message to parents which read: “School will be closed because of water crisis. All learners to stay at home as from 24/02 until further notice.”

“The school has not had water for days. My daughter has been telling me that they haven’t been able to use certain toilets as they were filthy but now the situation has gotten even worse‚” said Nqobile Masombuka‚ a parent of a Grade 1 pupil at the school.

  • READ MORE: Bucket baths for Witbank hospital patients amid water and electricity crisisThe water and electricity situation in Emalahleni is so bad patients in a wing of the Witbank Provincial Hospital have to wash in rainwater collected in buckets by nurses.

“The school has a Jojo tank but it seems like it is already running empty‚” she said.

In the meantime‚ she has had to miss work because there was no one to stay home with her daughter.

“Who will take of all these children who have been sent home? We don’t blame the school but the crisis is getting even bigger.”

Bongani Mlombo‚ whose niece attends Hoërskool Reynopark‚ said he was called by the school to collect her as she had an upset stomach.

“Today they sent us texts to collect them. What made me feel down is [on] Monday I talked to the kid to stay at home ‚ but she didn't as she doesn’t [want to] be left behind [in her schoolwork]‚” said Mlombo.

He said it was frustrating – there was no water at home either.

“We had to manually flush the toilet with water we had saved in containers‚” he said.

“Our city has turned into a village‚” he said.

Water disruptions in Witbank came after a main water pipe burst last weekend.

Power cuts from Eskom also added to the crisis‚ disabling the electrically operated water purification system.

  • READ MORE: Emalahleni residents are still in the darkWhile Eskom says it will immediately lift blackouts in Witbank, some residents were yesterday still without power.

Eskom cut Witbank’s power because of the city’s mounting debt‚ now at R1-billion.

But on Wednesday night the power utility suspended the load shedding until March 3.

Despite this‚ some residents are still without power and many are still without water.

“We haven’t had any electricity since 5pm‚” Khumbuzile Nkabinde wrote on Facebook on Thursday.

Power in her area was restored at 10.15pm.

Witbank residents blame municipal manager Theo van Vuuren for the crisis.

And on Friday morning‚ Van Vuuren announced on his Facebook account that yet another water pipe had burst. He said the city could not estimate how long repairs would take.