Poop keeps Khayelitsha pre-schoolers out of school

Sewage spill has led to Grade R learners having to stay at home and parents having to find the money for childcare. Photo by Vincent Lali

A sewage spill has turned a preschool into a health hazard.

A recurring sewage spill has been keeping 46 Grade R learners from attending classes since Monday at Philani Educare in L section of Site B, Khayelitsha. Water mixed with faeces gurgles out of a rodding eye located in a yard next to the crèche and flows into the yard of the crèche and a classroom.

Sindiswa Mgwetyana, principal of the crèche, said the sewage started to spill into the facility and invaded one of its two classrooms on Friday evening. “The whole yard was already covered in dirty water when we arrived here on Monday. We had to collect stones for kids to step on and walk into the classrooms,” she said.

Mgwetyana said parents fearing for the health of their kids took them back home on Monday. “Parents who normally bring their kids here said they could not leave them in my care because the dirty water would make them sick. “Other kids simply went back home when they saw the sewage spill and smelled the stench. Attendance has been dwindling since Monday. Today only one kid attended classes,” she said.

One of the learners who attended classes on Wednesday struggled to walk on the bricks and stepped into the dirty water. “His schoolbag fell into the water. I told her mother to take it home because it was drenched,” Mgwetyana said. Parents have now had to find childminders. “Parents complain that they have to hire individuals to look after their kids even though they have already paid fees here.

“On Tuesday, city officials arrived and fixed a sewage drain nearby, and the sewage stopped spilling into the crèche yard,” she said. Pools of stagnant water remain. While Elitsha was still at the crèche, city officials arrived in a truck. They told this reporter that they were waiting for other city employees to remove the water.

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Amos Komeni, former ward 43 councilor, said the spill emanates from a rodding eye located in his yard near the crèche. “The stench forces us to close the windows and doors to keep it out, but the hot weather also put us under pressure to open them,” he said.

Komeni criticised the city for taking long to come and help the kids. “The city’s turn-around time is bad. It’s unacceptable that the city employees only come now to look into the problem,” he said. “I want the city to send engineers to examine the root cause of the problem. Some officials told me while I was still a ward councilor that the sewage spill keeps on happening because we are located in a low-lying area, but I’m not convinced,” he said.

Luyanda Adams, of Khayelitsha Development Forum, said the sewage spill has been recurring for the past three years. “The city must deal with the main cause of the problem.” Adams, who stays near Philani Educare, worries that the kids who go to the creche come from poor families, and may starve when they are not there. “They may end up walking around looking for food.”

The city’s mayoral committee member for water and sanitation, Councillor Zahid Badroodien blamed residents for blocking the sewer network by flushing rags, sand and other foreign objects.

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