A KwaZulu-Natal South Coast primary school’s toilets and washbasins have long been the only source of clean water for its almost 1 000 disadvantaged and vulnerable learners from neighbouring unserviced informal settlements, bringing the educational institution’s finances to breaking point.
The under-resourced school’s soaring and unaffordable water bills were recently brought to the attention of Durban-based Al Baraka Bank by the affected school’s Deputy Principal, Mrs R Sewnarain. The bank stepped into the breach, making available almost R168 000 for the sinking of a borehole and the draining a stagnant and contaminated pond on the property.
The Principal of Umzinto’s 70-year-old St Patrick’s Primary School, Mr G Dlamini, said: “Our school services mainly orphans and vulnerable children from neighbouring informal settlements. Since most of these learners do not have even basic services, they depend largely on the school. Maximum use is made of our toilets and washbasins. As a result, our water bill is exceptionally high and has become unaffordable.”
Commenting on its corporate social investment initiative, Al Baraka Bank Chief Executive, Mr Shabir Chohan, said: “Clean water is the essential basis for a healthy life. Although a scarce resource in our country, it is a vital resource and, in an ideal environment, all our citizens should have direct access to water. Such an environment is sadly lacking, leaving many disadvantaged communities still living without potable water for drinking, washing or food security.”
“We were, therefore, pleased to be in a position to provide financial support for the sinking of a borehole and pump installation, so providing water on-tap for the school’s learners, who were previously denied a basic service which so many of us take for granted.”
Mr Dlamini said the provision of the borehole would significantly reduce the school’s spiralling water bill and also enable the improved development of an existing vegetable garden, developed in conjunction with the local community and which serves both the needy community members and learners alike.
“The vegetable garden concept is very important because many of our learners regularly come to school hungry. Borehole water will be used to irrigate the vegetables, so improving crop production, whilst also providing opportunities for learners lacking water at home,” he added.
Mr Chohan said that a recent site visit had raised a further concern for the school.
“The recent removal of a building caused the development of a pond, the water of which is stagnant and overflowing onto school grounds. Accordingly and working concurrently with the borehole development, we are facilitating the drainage of the pond, making the area safe for the school’s learners,” Mr Chohan said.
The Provincial Department of Education’s Ugu District Office has welcomed the bank’s borehole initiative, indicating that’s its operation would be beneficial to both the learners of St Patrick’s Primary School, as well as the surrounding community.
Deputy Principal, Mrs Sewnarain, stressed: “We are most grateful to Al Baraka Bank for making this kind donation. My sincere thanks and appreciation go to Fathima Mohamed, from Al Baraka Bank, for her guidance and assistance. She must be commended for her excellent commitment to the community.”
She added that the borehole would be adequately secured and said that the Chairperson of the school’s Governing Body, who lives on the property, would control the proper and effective use of borehole water.
He added: “This borehole is but a small contribution towards addressing South Africa’s socio-economic challenges, but I believe that as small as it might be, it is set to make a tremendous difference to this particular school and its surrounding community.”