Perennial Water Woes Plague School Opened 70 Years Ago
70 years later, Mawanke Primary School in Gwanda still battles with water shortages. Image by Unsplash
Seventy-years after Mawanke Primary School in Gwanda first opened its doors to the public, teachers and pupils at the public school bear the brunt of ongoing water challenges.
GWANDA (The Citizen Bulletin) — It is exactly 4 a.m when Nomagugu Moyo leaves her cottage speedily-trekking in a narrow, rocky path to search for water about 2 km away.
As usual, it is a typical morning. The typical time. The typical route. The typical chore.
The Mawanke primary school teacher has no other option but to walk for 1 and half hours twice every day to collect water before and after she knocks off from work.
“It has been happening for two years now since I was deployed here. These days it's even better as we sometimes collect rainwater in containers when it rains.”
At several rural schools of Gwanda, water scarcity is crippling school activities.
At Mawanke Primary, water challenges are a permanent feature.
The school was officially opened in 1954 with no running water and has operated like that since then.
“Pupils often skip school to assist parents fetch water for drinking, household chores and cattle,” explains Moyo.
For 12-year-old Sukoluhle Bhebhe, a pupil at Mawanke Primary School, water has gained priority over her education.
At least once a week, she skips school together with her younger brothers to go to the dam to fill dozens of buckets using a donkey scotch cart.
It is unnerving.
School children skip school to fetch water from far away sources while the community pleads with the government to drill boreholes. Image by UNICEF
But for Bhebhe, a grade 7 student, this is a routine affair.
“I have no choice but to skip school at times to bring water,” she says.
“Without water, there is no life,” says another teacher at Mawanke, Nobukhosi Ndlovu.
Ndlovu says water challenges at the school made their life difficult.
For Ndlovu, having to adapt to water scarcity was an uncommon phenomenon.
“We spend part of our productive time looking for water,” she says.
Mwanke School Development Committee (SDC) chairperson, Washington Ndlovu, confirms the dire situation.
Ndlovu says they feel neglected as the water challenges at the school are not new, but authorities have turned a blind eye.
He reveals also had to endure the pain of walking a 2 km distance daily to the nearest water source after school when he was still a student several years ago.
“It is sad that I grew up here and attended my primary education here. I know the experience of having to fetch water after school daily 2 km away,” says Ndlovu.
Ndlovu says unavailability of water is affecting the development of the school.
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“It is now years later, I'm now old and a chairman of the SDC, but the school still has no water which affects the development of the school,” says Ndlovu.
For Ndlovu, water scarcity is the reason why experienced teachers shun the school.
Those that have been deployed there have been quick to seek transfers, he says.
“As of now, the school has five female teachers. Some teachers refuse to come and work here because of these conditions.”
Washington Ndlovu, Mwanke SDC chairperson
With COVID-19 still a scare, village head Simeone Mbangeniera says it cannot be overemphasized how important water is.
“Having school children going around begging for water in nearby homesteads and teachers’ cottages is not good at all. They even risk contracting diseases such as coronavirus,” says Mbangeniera.
Just like every community member, he pleads with the local government and other stakeholders to drill boreholes to alleviate the suffering of the teachers and learners.
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Education, Gwanda, Water scarcity, Matabeleland, COVID-19
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