20 August 2018

South Africa: Children Must Cross Treacherous River Bed On Foot to Go to School

To get to school and back home, hundreds of school children in KwaNobuhle, Uitenhage, have to cross a treacherous river bed. The bridge over the river collapsed in 2005 after heavy rains. It has never been fixed.

The bridge used to connect KwaNobuhle 4 and KwaNobuhle 2, crossing a filthy river with sewage from Duduza, Holomisa and Gunguluza emptying into it.

"This year we nearly drowned as we had to cross the bridge to school amid strong currents, because it had rained ... Water was above our knees and we clung to each other's hands," says a grade 10 learner at Solomon Mahlangu Secondary School.

Another learner, Inganathi Captain, says many learners have to walk to school. "Our parents can't afford to fund transport to and from school month-to-month."

It is over a half-kilometre walk across rugged, vacant land from KwaNobuhle 2's Mqolomba Street to the Solomon Mahlangu crossing where the bridge collapsed. To walk using the nearest existing bridges is two and half kilometres.

Residents also say the crossing is dangerous because criminals hide in the bushes. Captain says he was assaulted by two men in April on his way to school. A grade 11 learner says she was robbed of her cellphone.

Chairperson of the Makukhanye Social Rural Movement Phumla Runeli says her organisation had collected hundreds of signatures from residents demanding a new bridge. "They must rebuild it," she says.

Ward 44 Councillor Nomsa Booi (ANC) says residents have been submitting proposals to the Integrated Development Programme [IDP] since 2008, asking for the bridge to be prioritised.

Spokesperson for Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Mthubanzi Mniki said, "The relevant directorate responsible is looking into the proof that the bridge was included in IDPs [priority]."

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