Khayelitsha water maintenance causes absenteeism on first day back at school

Khayelitsha residents were without water for the whole of Tuesday this week. Photo by Mzi Velapi

Poor attendance on the first day of school was caused by a water outage in Khayelitsha.

Several schools in Khayelitsha were affected by a water outage this Tuesday, the 10th of October, caused by maintenance conducted by the City of Cape Town (CoCT). The outage, which was communicated on the 7th, was due to a 450mm diameter valve being installed on the main water supply pipeline. “This work had started on Wednesday, 4 October 2023, but due to complications, had to be postponed to 10 October 2023,” reads the CoCT’s statement.

However, the message did not reach some Nonkqubela residents who were confused as to why there was no water. “We did not receive any communication, and the water we had, we used to cook for the children. The water we got from the [water] tanks we used for the toilet as we were not sure it was safe for the children to drink,” said Nomfuneko Mayekiso, manager at Noluthando Educare Centre. The children usually bring their own water and juice to consume, however due to the limited water supply and the hot weather, the daycare opted to send children home early. “We woke up in the morning and there was little water so we stored some in buckets and when the water truck came, we also collected there,” said Khanya Milakhe, receptionist at Baphumelele Children’s Home.

The children managed to get ready for school on the 10th as the outage was only due to start at
8am. By the morning of the 11th, however, the water would not be back until 9:00. “Because we had stored enough water, the children managed to use that water to get ready for school,” added Milakhe.
Commenting on the preparedness of schools, Bronagh Hammond, Western Cape Education Department spokesperson, said schools were not notified in advance. “Schools only returned yesterday [10 October] after the school holiday period, so it is unclear as to whether notifications were sent out while the staff and teachers were on leave and schools and systems closed,” said Hammond.

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The water outage affected ablution facilities and drinking water, resulting in an increase in absenteeism for the first two days of term, according to Hammond. On the other hand, health services at Site B Clinic and at Khayelitsha Day Hospital were better prepared for the outage, with provisions made so patients were not affected.

“As per protocol, contingency water tanks were provided to ensure service delivery can continue. However, some of our services, such as urine testing, had to be postponed,” said Abulele Dyasi, communications officer at the Western Cape government. With the restoration of water supply yesterday morning, all services have resumed.

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