No flushing toilets as Makhanda school is hit by water shortages

A tap at Grahamstown Primary has become nothing more than an ornament because of ongoing water shortages.
A tap at Grahamstown Primary has become nothing more than an ornament because of ongoing water shortages.
Image: Lucas Nowicki, GroundUp

Makhanda’s unreliable water supply is causing serious sanitation problems for a local school.

The Sarah Baartman District Municipality, which includes Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown), declared a local state of disaster on February 25 because of ongoing water shortages.

Leon Coetzee, principal of Grahamstown Primary, said that the water cuts have disrupted learning, with schools being unable to flush toilets or cook daily lunches.

"The learners come from home, where there is no water, and they come to school expecting water, where there is none," said Coetzee.

The inability to flush is the biggest problem. Coetzee said that when the toilets were closed last week, two children wet themselves.

"We now leave them open and collect water to flush them," he said.

A borehole has been sunk on the premises of the school but the water still needs to be tested.

The city’s water supply has been erratic for a long time, but the problem became particularly serious in late January, caused by a combination of low dam levels and lack of maintenance of the water supply infrastructure.

Gift of the Givers has been distributing drinking water and drilling boreholes across the drought-stricken municipality. The organisation has also started a fund to raise R30m for emergency drought relief.

"It is very disturbing for me that an educational institute should operate without water. It is a basic need. For the learners this is supposed to be a safe haven," said Coetzee.

The municipality said on Monday that the James Kleynhans Treatment Works, which provides water to the eastern side of the city where Grahamstown Primary is, was  working at only half its capacity because the other pumps are being "aligned".

This article was first published by GroundUp.

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