Mashudu Netsianda, senior reporter
The water crisis in BULAWAYO has worsened, forcing some schools to fire learners early as part of emergency measures in light of a looming health disaster.
There are reports that public schools in the metropolitan province owe city council $ 23 million in water bills, which the Ministry of Elementary and Secondary Education is disputing.
Residents of the town are set to undergo an extended water evacuation drill as Bulawayo City Council (BCC) struggles to pump water to the town due to alleged power outages .
However, on the other hand, the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) has absolved itself of all blame in the ongoing water disposal program, claiming that there had been no major power outages. in the city.
Last Friday, the council introduced a weekly 48-hour water drain schedule to affect the city, excluding the city center and industrial sites.
The local authority has since increased the drainage drill to 72 hours per week, although residents of some suburbs went almost a week without water.
Yesterday, Nkulumane primary school fired students early citing the prevailing water crisis, which has seen sanitation facilities submerged.
When Chronicle visited the school yesterday morning shortly after 10 a.m., the press team observed learners walk out of the schoolyard after teachers sacked them due to water issues.
The chairman of the Nkulumane Primary School (SDC) Development Committee, Mr Morgan Masuku, confirmed that the students were dismissed earlier due to water problems at the school.
“Our children are no longer safe at school due to the current water crisis, which has hit the whole city. The school authorities have consulted with us on the matter and it was agreed that our children should be sent back early to avoid an impending health disaster, ”he said.
“We also have a challenge with BCC’s water billing system, which we dispute as the schools are not commercial entities. The Council says we owe them $ 1.2 million, which is not our consumption, ”he said.
The school has an enrollment of 1,900 learners from the early childhood development (ECD) class to the seventh grade. Mr Masuku said the school depended on a single relief borehole that failed to meet the demand for water.
Primary and Secondary Education Ministry spokesman Taungana Ndoro said whenever there is a critical water shortage, affected schools are expected to take emergency measures, such as dismissal of students.
“When a school has no water, it can cut learning hours or completely fire learners while seeking emergency measures to meet the challenge,” he said.
Mr Ndoro confirmed that Bulawayo’s public schools were sitting on a $ 23 million water bill, which he said was not justified given the city facing a critical water crisis. water.
“Some of our schools have cut down on learning hours due to water issues and then you have a bill of over $ 23 million. How can you have such a ridiculous water bill when that water isn’t even there? He inquired.
“If we had received an adequate supply of water on a consistent basis, there should be a mandate that we had to pay this money. It is a question of rationalization where it is necessary to know if the invoices are a faithful reflection of consumption.
Mr Ndoro said schools are non-profit entities, therefore board billing should take this aspect into account as well.
“The council cannot charge such exorbitant bills, but there is no water. Our schools are up to date with their invoices.
Remember that schools offer corporate social responsibility to our learners and our communities, ”he said.
“Schools are not for-profit entities but we are here to provide an essential service. Having a $ 23 million bill means we should go back to the drawing board and fix it.
We must continue to provide quality, relevant and inclusive education to all Zimbabweans for the socio-economic transformation of the nation. “
Mr. Ndoro said the ministry would engage the council on the matter. He said there should be a correlation between the bill billed by the council and the water provided.
“There is a critical water challenge in Bulawayo and this is not the first time that there has been such a challenge, but we say this should also be reflected in the bills that are charged to our schools. Some of our lawns have not been irrigated for some time due to the critical situation with the dishes, ”he said.
“If we get little water, it should translate into a small bill. We engage the council on this issue.
Bulawayo province has 201 registered schools, most of which are run by the government and serve a total of 201,977 students.
BCC’s head of corporate communications, Ms. Nesisa Mpofu, did not respond to questions emailed to her about it.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Bulawayo City Clerk Mr. Christopher Dube said the city is still experiencing power outages and as a result the city council has increased the water shedding to three days per week.
He said the blackout resulted in the loss and subsequently reduced drawdown and pumping.
Mr Dube said that due to the power outage, the council will reduce Nyamandlovu pumping from 15ml / day to 3ml / day.
According to a council drainage schedule, Bellevue, Newton West, West Somerton, Montrose, Southwold, Sizinda, Tshabalala, Nkulumane 10 to 12, Mpopoma South, Old Pelandaba, Iminyela, Burnside, Pumula North and Pumula East, Cowdray Park , Gwabalanda, Emakhandeni, Barbourfields, Mzilikazi, Nguboyenja and Makokoba, Ilanda, Romney Park, Paddonhurst, Bradfield, Tegela, Emhlangeni and Sunnyside will experience water cuts from Thursday at 7:30 am and the taps will be reopened at the same time on Monday.
Taps will be open Friday at 7:30 a.m. and close at the same time Tuesday at Esigodini, Imbizo Barracks, Fortunes Gate, Selbourne Park, Matsheumhlope, Parklands, Khumalo, Queenspark, Suburbs Mahatshula, Woodville and Kingsdale.
Nkulumane 5, Nketa, Emganwini, Pumula South, Old Pumula, Pelandaba West, Khami, Magwegwe, Lobengula West, Lobengula, Mabutweni, Matshobane, Njube, Luveve, Mpopoma, Magwegwe North and Magwegwe West, Harrisvale, Trenance Richmond and Sauerstownweg will have supplies disconnected from Saturday at 7:30 am and the taps will be reopened at the same time on Wednesday.