The Bulawayo City Council (BCC) has advised the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to source water tanks to be used to store water by schools, when classes resume next month-end.
Schools were closed prematurely in March, as part of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 but are set to re-open by the end of July after examinations classes are done writing their June tests.
However, Bulawayo is on a strict 144 hour water shedding exercise per week, where schools are not exempt yet if they re-open, would require water daily.
BCC says it cannot provide water to schools due to critical shortages of the precious liquid.
Revelations by the local authority follow a request for exemption put forward by Bulawayo provincial education ministry officials.
“We have an appeal to the city to have water during this time of COVID-19 pandemic. In June 29, 2020, Ordinary and Advanced Level examinations are taking place in our schools and at the end of July, after the examinations, Grade Seven, Form Four and Upper Six learners will come back on board,” said a T. Sibanda from the provincial education ministry office to BCC at a recent water crisis meeting.
He pointed out that quite a number of schools in Bulawayo had no water tanks or boreholes while some have dysfunctional boreholes and others totally relied on city council water.
“To make matters worse during the 144 hour water shedding exercise, the water is restored at night when there is no one in schools to collect or harvest that water. So as ministry it is our appeal to have continuous supply of water in our schools.
“I don’t know how best it can be done, maybe water bowsers (will be helpful) but now most of our schools don’t have water tanks to harvest that water so that we manage to be in line with World Health Organisations conditions. This is our appeal from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education,” Sibanda said.
In response, BCC Chamber Secretary, Sikhangele Zhou, suggested the education ministry should find ways of installing water tanks into the schools, as the city had no water.
“This can be done through the government funding or well-wishers because it is not possible for us to exempt schools from water shedding – the schools are within the residencies where shedding takes place. If the water is available, schools wouldn’t be subjected to shedding,” she said.
“Currently we are exempting our big hospitals such as Mpilo Central Hospital and the United Bulawayo Hospitals from water shedding but we can’t do so in the localities. Even our clinics, make use of water stored in the tanks.”
The chamber secretary noted that if the ministry sourced water tanks, BCC would ‘bowse’ water and fill up those tanks.
“Then the schoolchildren would use the water when they come for examinations (in June) and when they resume classes as well. Let’s work together, try and find the water tanks because there is no water for us to keep you online,” Zhou said.
“There is no water and that’s the honest truth. The water is simply not there to be availed through to all schools so through government funding or any other well-wishers, we must look for tanks. Let’s appeal to the School Development Committees to assist in acquiring water tanks for the schools, as they prepare for the opening. This is the only solution we can have.”
Zhou promised that once the water tanks were installed, BCC would continuously fill them up.
“We will put water in the tanks for the schoolchildren, not for the community, but for the schools so that children can use it when they come to school. This is the answer that we can do,” said the chamber secretary.