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Bulawayo schools operating without water

by Staff Reporter
25 Sep 2022 at 10:38hrs | Views
MORE than half of Bulawayo's schools are operating without water after council disconnected supplies due to non-payment of rates amid reports that they owe council a combined $100 million while those connected are having to make do with intermittent supplies owing to water shedding.

The Bulawayo City Council says 72 of the city's 86 schools that are not run by the local authority had their water supplies disconnected in August during the school holidays. Most of the schools are government schools with a few private schools also owing. Speaking to Sunday News last week, Bulawayo City Council's Financial Services Department Director Mr Kimpton Ndimande said some schools had come forward to make payment plans and have since had water supplies restored. However, 41 schools are still dry. Mr Ndimande said the city was forced to take drastic measures after multiple attempts to encourage the schools to pay had failed.

He said the council's strategy to disconnect water supplies during the holidays was to allow schools enough time to make payment arrangements during the term recess in order to ensure that learning was not disrupted when schools reopened.  "We don't want to disrupt their programmes. Those children are our children and we want them to learn. Therefore, the decision to suspend water supply during the holiday was meant to give the school an opportunity to regularise its standing way before schools open so that by the time the term resumes, water supply would have been restored and learning was not disrupted. However, it is unfortunate that we have tried numerous times to engage most of the schools on their debt, however, they have not been forthcoming, we then came to the decision of disconnecting water supplies in order to encourage them to pay," said Mr Ndimande.

He said his department was considering engaging the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education provincial office on the matter and said in previous years, the ministry had intervened and made schools pay.

"In the past we have even gone to the regional education office, and in the past, the office intervened and urged schools to pay up and that really helped. After that we thought we could exchange cheques with Government but schools could not be part of that exercise as they have independent accounts and are responsible for their day-to-day running. So, we are considering going back to the regional office and to engage them on this matter," said Mr Ndimande.

Bulawayo City Council Acting Finance Manager Revenue in the financial Services Department Mr Euther Siziba said the water disconnection exercise at schools had helped council so far recover 21 percent of what was owed by schools, after a total payment of $21 million had been made since August.

He said the 41 schools that had not yet made efforts to pay or make an arrangement included Hugh Beadle, Milton Junior, Sobukhazi, Lobengula Secondary, Mpopoma High School, Lochview, Trenance, Newmansford, Amaswazi, Sikhulile, Helemu and Fusi Primary.

Mr Siziba said sometimes council ended up reopening water supplies even when schools had snubbed any communication channels extended for negotiation, saying it was done to ensure that learners had access to water and learning was not disrupted.

He said the 41 schools had not yet come forward to negotiate payment arrangements with council, a situation he described as worrying. Only 21 schools out of the 72 have since made a payment or promise to pay.

"We are open for dialogue with schools and we hope that they will make use of all the available channels of communication so that arrangements are made. This money is needed so that as a council we are able to render quality services to the residents of the city and without that revenue coming, our ability to offer quality services is drastically reduced. There are some private schools but the majority are Government and as it is we are considering engaging the provincial education office. Government is not much involved in the payment system for schools, the schools have to come and engage us and make payment plans so that we can restore supply in order not to inconvenience the learners," he said.

The situation has seen some schools asking pupils to bring water from home, which has raised the ire of parents.

Source - Sunday News