Schools shut down due to sewerage stink

The sewer spillage which is visible in the school drains.

Due to health risks caused by continuous spillage, blocked and stinking sewerage drains, the governing body, parents and principals of two Sea Cow Lake Schools reached a joint decision to have a total shutdown of the schools for seven days, giving the Education Department a chance to respond to their grievances.

Pupils from Dr. Macken Mistry Primary and Inanda Special School will be missing out on work due to the shut down as the parents feel this is the only way to get their voices heard. The shutdown began on Friday, February 12 and is expected  to end on February 19.

Prior to the school shutdown, Dr. Macken Mistry Primary School, principal Mr NB Sukool said he was left with no choice but to let his pupils go home early due to the unbearable stink caused by the unattended blocked sewerage pipes in his school.

According to Sukool, their blockage problem goes back to the year 1999 and nothing has been done about it. He said his main concern is hygiene due to the unbearable stench caused by the malfunctioning sewer pipes. Sukool also said that his school pupils are being stripped off their basic human right of sanitation as they cannot use the toilet as often as they want to due to the blockage.

“The joint decision to shut down the schools was made at a meeting with parents and governing body members as we all feel that the pupils and staff are falling ill due to the problems being experienced at the school. My staff and pupils inhale bad toxins from the drainage which is a health hazard to them. As a principal how do I function with a team falling sick all the time due to a problem that can be fixed,” said Sukool.

However, the bad smell is not only being experienced by one school, but the school next to it as well. Inanda Special School principal Sipho Nkosi said they also noticed the bad stink coming from the unattended drainages which is also a health hazard for his pupils. “We feel neglected as we have been raising the point of pipe blockage to the relevant departments for some time now. These are some of the harsh realities we are faced with as special school,” said Nkosi.

Grade 7 pupil at Dr. Macken Mistry Primary School, Iven Govender said the smell is unbearable, it gives him a headache and it also makes him feel nauseous. Sukool said 11 out of 23 of his teachers have taken days off due to illnesses caused by the unhygienic conditions they work under. “About 275 pupils have fallen sick and stayed away from school due to the stink and its health hazard,” he said.

Local councillor Deochand Ganesh said the matter is being addressed by the sanitation and education departments. “Hopefully the issue of the stink and overflow of pipes will be dealt with by these departments soon,” said Ganesh.

Dr. Macken Mistry school governing body chairman, Sithembiso Dlamini said this joint decision was taken after they went to the Education Department offices in Truro House where they handed over a memorandum of understanding, and yet they did not get feed-back from the department.

“Parents gave a mandate on the shut down, and a joint decision was taken in order to prevent pupils and staff members from falling ill as their health comes first. We will make sure that pupils catch up on the work missed during the shutdown,” said Dlamini.

Education Department spokesman Muzi Mahlambi said, “The sewerage and drain problems are a municipality issue, however as the department we are also worried about it.”

eThekwini head of communications, Tozi Mthethwa, said, “There is significant odour associated with incomplete digestion of sewage sludge. Primary digester one, being offline resulted in the overloading and process failure of primary digester, secondly, both digesters have to be cleaned out and re-commissioned so that the sewage sludge can be stabilised by the biological process to prevent odours. Mobile odour control sprays were deployed in the area immediately. This odour control mechanism is running 24 hours. A contract was awarded to install permanent odour control sprays at the digesters with an increased capacity to minimise odours in the area. Work has already begun and the new system is being installed.”

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Zola Phoswa

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