By Siyalo Gulwa
After nearly two years with water problems one of the oldest schools in the Eastern Cape was given R6 million by both the Historic Schools Restoration Project and the Eastern Cape Provincial Government to install new water pipes, renovate boreholes, provide a water purification plant and renovate the sewerage reticulation to the school’s complex consisting of a hostel, clinic, and teachers’ cottages.
The problems with regard to the water are said to be the result of low ground water in the area and a broken pump.
St Matthew’s High School in Keiskammahoek was established in 1855 by the Anglican Church. It has 644 children, of which 280 are girls staying at the hostel.
Mr. Mkhuseli Gquma, the principal, said: “The issue of the school having no water is really giving me sleepless nights because the hostel cannot run properly without water and we depend on tank water to run it.”
“We are using water pumped from underground. After our first complaint to the Amahlathi Municipality we were told that the water levels are very low underground hence the school has no water.”
The second time the school had no water was the result of the faulty pump. St Matthew’s is one of few African schools in the Eastern Cape to have a hostel and it only caters for the girls that come from as far as Mthatha.
“It is hard to run a school’s hostel with girls only without water. They have to wash, eat and do their laundry regularly. The way we are operating without water is very unhealthy and unacceptable,” said Mr. Gquma.
The Historical Schools Restoration Project (HSRP) was started in 2007 by former Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr Pallo Jordan who asked the former Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane to lead the project It is designed to revive historically significant and currently under-resourced South African secondary schools into centres of cultural and educational excellence. The National Department of Arts and Culture has endorsed and funded this initiative.
St Matthew’s High School and Healdtown Comprehensive School close to Fort Beaufort are two schools in the Eastern Cape that received initial support from HSRP.
Mantyisi Constructions from East London is busy installing a reservoir and access road which will allow for storage of water from the refurbished boreholes The construction is due to finish in June.
A grade 10 pupil, Luyolo Feni, said: “If it was not for the project we would be facing the same water problem again this year. We are grateful to have such projects that look after our schools. We wish that this could also happen to all the other schools around Eastern Cape who have the same water problems”. – WSU-SNA