Day Zero will not close schools‚ Zille promises
Western Cape Premier Helen Zille has made a commitment that government schools in her province will not shut down come Day Zero.
“Whatever happens‚ we intend to keep schools open - and we intend to keep schools open with water‚’’ Zille told educators and principals from about 1000 schools on Wednesday.
She hosted the briefing in a packed hall at the Western Cape Sports School.
This comes in the wake of criticism from teachers’ union SADTU‚ which blasted Zille and her government for leaving schools “in the dark” over strategies to ensure that schools are not crippled come mid-April‚ the current estimate for Day Zero - when dam levels are expected to drop to 13.5%.
Zille said every school must have a water emergency plan and assured stakeholders that officials will be available to assist in drawing up their strategies.
Water security at schools is crucial‚ she said‚ and this involves ensuring fire safety‚ hygiene‚ sanitation and drinking water for pupils and staff.
She revealed that to achieve this‚ the provincial education department has to secure 23 mega litres of water every day for the 1506 schools with its over 1.1-million pupils and 32 000 teachers.
“When we can’t secure drinking water...at your school we will truck it in‚’’ said Zille.
In addition‚ she promised that technicians would be deployed to schools to make their boreholes functional again. The main water sources‚ for now‚ include limited municipal water‚ ground water‚ recycled water and sea water.
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Another key priority is to insure that schools‚ which depend on the Western Cape Water Supply System‚ have water storage facilities to ensure that at very least there is enough water to meet fire security and basic hygiene needs.
She wanted to know who many schools have no boreholes or tanks.
“Which ones of you fall into those categories? These are the ones we are really worried about‚’’ she asked the school representatives.
Dozens raised their hands.
“Okay‚ you are the ladies and gentlemen that we really have to focus on.”
She asked officials to contact these schools in at least two to three weeks to discuss what help they would receive.
Many principals‚ including Megan Katts from Marvin Park Primary and Renate van der Westhuizen from Apex High School‚ said Zille’s meeting was informative and helpful.
Meanwhile SADTU raised concerns that the drought will have major repercussions for feeding schemes at schools.
The Peninsula School Feeding Association‚ which serves meals to 28 000 pupils‚ is faced with the difficulty of preparing these meals without water.
Charles Grey‚ fundraising manager for the PSFA‚ said that instead of the boiled veggies and starch they usually prepare‚ they have had to make sandwiches instead. “We have had to prepare ‘waterless meals’ for the kids‚” he said. “Nutrition has definitely taken a drop‚ although we have tried to stay as healthy as possible.”
Grey said the children are “totally reliant” on the meals provided by the feeding scheme and that Day Zero could be a “disaster”.
“You can’t teach a kid that isn’t fed‚ and our mission is to see no hungry school children. God forbid we see Day Zero. I don’t know what that will mean for these kids.”
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