Pupils forced to relieve themselves outside

Pupils forced to relieve themselves outside as school’s toilets are broken

Pupils at Silindokuhle Secondary School in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal, are forced to relieve themselves in the open because the school’s sewerage system is dysfunctional.

The school, which falls under the Uthukela district,  is also experiencing a severe water shortage.

Even the toilets used by teachers are not functioning, with some havingto leave the school to relieve themselves at home.

This is according to concerned members of the public who have called on the principal, senior management team (SMT), school governing body (SGB), parents, the community, and other education stakeholders in the area to meet to restore dignity and order, and create a conducive environment for teaching and learning.

Bongani Zwane, a pastor who is also a former pupil at the school, said he was shocked to see the condition of the school over the Easter weekend when he was in the area. He said there were 12 toilets, two on each of the five blocks, that make up the school.

“None of them are functioning, and even the two toilets used by the teachers are not working,” he said.

He also said there were only two taps that were working, one of which was connected to a Jojo tank that was not secured and anyone could access it to contaminate the water.

“There is a stench of human waste around the school and open sewers. Pupils relieve themselves on the school grounds. The windows and doors are broken, and there is no fence around the school, so livestock wander in,” he said.

“It is not a conducive environment for learning and teaching,” said Zwane.

“Just next door, is Umbulwane Primary School, which is well run,” he said, asking what it was that Umbulwane was doing right  that Silindokuhle could not.

In terms of the South African Schools Act, SGBs and SMTs are responsible for maintenance and repairs using the school funds provided by the provincial departments of education.

Mzokhona Mlambo, a member of the community policing forum and an alumnus of the school, said infrastructure issues were not the only problems at the school.

“The school looks beautiful from afar, until you get closer and see the rot,” said Mlambo, who is also a parent of a grade 12 pupil at the school.

“When you see a teacher carrying a bucket, you already know that she is going to relieve herself. It is embarrassing.”

Mlambo also said the school had a problem with pupils who brought weapons to school, and fights frequently broke out at assembly at the slightest provocation by pupils.

He spends most of his time seeking out those who are bunking classes to smoke weed in unused classrooms or in the toilets.

He said others disrupted classes on the top floor of the same unused classrooms by throwing rocks and debris at teachers and other pupils.

There were about 10 classrooms, said Mlambo, that were unused because a section of the roof was blown off during a storm about eight years ago. But they had become a hideout for those who partook in dagga smoking and disruptive behaviour at the school.

“The pupils use the plumbing pipes to slide down to the ground when chased from the top floor.

“It is a difficult task to deal with these children because they have many escape options, some of which pose a danger to their own safety,” said a frustrated Mlambo.

“Here [at Silindokuhle], you’ll find only 10 out of 32 children in class. The other 22 will be engaged in other activities that have nothing to do with school.”

He said searches at the gate to seize dagga had yielded little result until one of the pupils, who was caught smoking, revealed how the pupils smuggled it into school premises.

“The pupil told us that they hide dagga in the neckbands of jerseys, seams of clothing, and even inside their belts,” he said.

KwaZulu-Natal MEC Mbali Frazer visited the school to monitor progress in preparation for the national senior certificate examinations.

The school recorded a pass rate of 36% in 2022. It improved to 64.5% last year.

Lungani Makhathini, the deputy secretary-general of the provincial executive committee of the National Association of School Governing Bodies, said they would look into the matter with the education district.

The KwaZulu-Natal education department did not respond to questions despite an undertaking to do so. Spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi did not respond to phone calls and text messages reminding him to comment.

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