South Africa: Learners Sent Home After Municipality Cuts Water Supply to Pietermaritzburg School

21 January 2020

School ran up bill of R2 million, says municipality

Learners at a Pietermaritzburg school have been sent home because the municipality has cut off the water after the school failed to pay a R2 million water bill.

The Msunduzi municipality confirmed that the water supply to Georgetown High School had been cut off in December, because of arrears of about R2 million. The school's last payment was in April 2018, according to the municipality's statement.

Last week learners were sent home every day at 11am. Toilets are not working and learners relieve themselves in the nearby forest.

When GroundUp visited the school on Monday a matric learner said teaching stopped at break time. "We have no choice but to go home."

Another said some of the learners carried water from home to drink because the taps were dry.

"The smell from the toilets is unbearable. It's not fair."

KZN Education spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said the department is aware of the problem and is working on it. "We are positive that the matter will have been resolved by the end of the week," said Mahlambi.

The municipality said an agreement had been reached by mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla and KwaZulu-Natal education MEC about the school water bill.

In a statement Thebolla said "We don't intend in any way to disrupt the education of our children. We had hoped that the school would have come forward and made payment arrangements. Unfortunately no one came. We are hoping that we will find joy with the intervention of the MEC."

Meanwhile, school governing body member Sonani Ndimande said learners had been told on Tuesday to go home and return on Thursday.

"We have just sent back home the learners this morning around 8:30am. There's still [no water]." He said it was not clear why the water bill was so high.

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