Dunoon school stands empty

Dunoon Primary School which was completed in May stands empty because of a water pressure problem.

Children at Dunoon Primary School are packed into cramped container classrooms and use overflowing toilets, while a new R64 million school stands unused next door.

The new school was built to replace the container classrooms and meet the growing need for schooling in the burgeoning community. But after it was finished in May, it was found the water pressure in the neighbourhood’s pipes was too low for the school to meet fire-safety regulations.

So pupils continue enduring conditions labelled “terrible” by a staff member who didn’t want her named published, but who fears for her pupils’ safety.

“There have been many reasons and excuses why the kids are not allowed to be taught in the school, one being elections, the other being water pressure.The teachers, parents and learners are at their wits’ end, the toilets are constantly being blocked, and the children are being taught in terrible conditions; very unhealthy,” she said.

“Summer is on its way, and the children cannot spend another hot summer in those terrible porta cabins with sewage leaking all over the place.”

SchoolprincipalBongani Macikama confirmed the unsanitary situation. The toilets were in a poor state and caused problems when flushed.

“They are old and overutilised. I don’t know when we’ll be in the new school,” he said.

A “booster pump” was needed to deal with the water pressure problem at the new school but it was “very expensive”, he said.

Jessica Shelver, spokeswoman for Education MEC Debbie Schafer, said the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) recognised the urgency of the situation, but the City of Cape Town had to certify whether the water pressure was sufficient and that process had not been an easy one.

“My understanding is that the water pressure to the school is too low to be able to use the fire hydrants in the case of a fire.

“The occurrence of fires is a real threat because of the informal housing surrounding and in close vicinity to the school,” she said.

“The City must register the connection and certify that the water pressure is sufficient in terms of the City’s health and safety regulations. In short, the water supply to the area is inadequate to deal with the number of households in the area,” said Ms Shelver.

The City had indicated that the problem could take three years to fix as people living informally near the school would have to be moved and other ways found to get water to the school, she said.

“We are currently engaging with the Department of Public Works on the matter and will look at boreholes and pumps as possible solutions, which will come at an estimated cost of R8m to the department,” said Ms Shelver.

Department of Public Works spokesman Byron La Hoe said the department had only learnt of the water pressure problem when the municipal water supply was connected to the new building.

“Illegal connections to the municipal water supply have caused a severe loss of pressure, so much so that the water pressure is insufficient for ring water mains for a building of this size.

“A back-up plan is being formulated involving constructing a booster pump station and a water reservoir,” said Mr La Hoe.

Mayoral committee member for utility services Ernest Sonnenberg told the Cape Argus that the low pressure was being investigated.

“Investigations are hampered by structures built illegally on the road reserve on top of the City’s reticulation infrastructure. This makes it challenging for us to gain access to our infrastructure for the investigation.

“The population of the area has grown from about 31 000 at the time of the 2011 census to an estimated 66 000 today. Infrastructure was not originally designed to support such density,” said Mr Sonnenberg.