The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) is confident it has put the necessary contingency plans in place to avert the possible disruption of schooling in the province due to the worsening drought in the province.
The situation is so dire authorities were forced to revise a date for the dreaded Day Zero – a day on which the taps in the city of Cape Town its surrounds will run dry – and brought it forward to April.
WCED’s spokesperson Jessica Shelver said they were working towards finalising plans for the scheduled day zero and these would be announced to the public once they have been completed. She said it is the provincial government’s intention to keep the schools open and functional when Day Zero is reached in the metro.
Shelver said Premier Helen Zille is scheduled to meet with the principals of around 1000 schools in the greater Cape Town next week. The schools rely on the water from the province’s main supply system and these include Drakenstein, Stellenbosch and West Coast municipalities. Shelver said the meeting with the leadership of these sectors will discuss in detail how to secure water supply to schools.
She said the provincial government has conducted an assessment of the approximately 400 schools with existing boreholes and that the majority of these boreholes require minimal work to operationalize for hygiene and fire safety purposes.
“We are also finalising plans for schools that require additional support to secure their water supply. A range of measures are under consideration, including additional water storage and the distribution of water to schools,” said Shelver.
“WCED also identified schools as strategic agencies to spread the message and contribute to water saving measures,” said Shelver.
Last November and early this year, the department issued guidelines to schools to notify them about Level 6 water restrictions.
“[The] schools are well placed to contribute to water saving, given the learner population in the Western Cape. They are also well placed to educate families about water saving, via their children,” said Shelver.
Some of the water management plans (focusing mainly on saving water in ablution facilities) that schools are encouraged to implement include:
- Schools need to close certain taps in ablution facilities and may procure hand sanitizers using funds allocated to them in terms of national norms and standards.
- They must attend to leaks immediately and record water meters twice a day. The department issued a programmed spread sheet to schools last year for monitoring water usage.
- Schools must prepare for water outages, including storing water on site for emergency use. The department is advising schools with swimming pools to use public facilities, including schools using water from boreholes.
- Schools must keep parents informed of their water management strategies and encourage learners and teachers to bring their own drinking water to school, for example, in 500 ml bottles.
- Schools should mobilise parent support for water saving, and should advise parents on the possible impact of the drought on teaching and learning.
- The department is encouraging every teacher to be water champions and is placing water restrictors and smart meters at schools.
- Schools with access to alternative sources of water must secure these resources. About 480 schools already have boreholes.