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Parents fear for their children’s fate

Mtwalume’s Umzimaye River is one of many hurdles the children of the Cabhane village must overcome each day to reach the nearest school. Picture: Supplied

Mtwalume’s Umzimaye River is one of many hurdles the children of the Cabhane village must overcome each day to reach the nearest school. Picture: Supplied

Published Jan 10, 2022

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WHILE children are busy bracing themselves for the new school year that is a few days away, parents of schoolchildren in the village of Cabhane in Mthwalume on KwaZulu-Natal’s south coast, have their hearts in their mouths.

That’s because each trip to the nearest place of learning for their children is similar to running the gauntlet.

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Schoolchildren from Cabhane are subjected to a 10km walk each day to reach the nearest schools, included in that journey is wading through the local uMzimaye River.

Some parents believe crocodiles may be lurking there and their children’s pursuit of education could make them sacrificial lambs.

Their worst fears were exacerbated when they learnt of how 25-year-old Mudzanani Humbelani was mauled to death by a crocodile while doing her laundry in a river near Thohoyandou, Limpopo, on January 1.

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Parents from Cabhane are wondering whether their children would have better luck than Humbelani and are now in a quandary over whether they should attend school or not.

Siwinile Mahlakula is a Cabhane parent who is facing that dilemma.

“The news of what transpired in Limpopo shook me, it struck me as something that could very well happen to my children. They say children have a right to education but I feel like that right is overlooked and they have been neglected.”

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Mahlakula said one local school, Isibukosethu High School, had to shut its doors in 2017 because it ended with few pupils because many were put off schooling mainly due to the long distance they had to travel each day.

Another concern for Mahlakula and other parents are sexual predators, who may be lurking at various points along their children’s journey to school each day, which also cuts through thick bush.

In 2020, the Sunday Tribune reported on the bloody trail left by a suspected serial rapist operating in the Mthwalume area, who seldom spared the lives of his victims. According to Thobani Radebe, another Cabhane resident, they have raised their concerns and challenges with local authorities in the past and hoped to get some positive feedback, but they had no such luck.

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“After the closure of Isibukosethu High School, the community asked for pupil transportation in 2018. We are still hopeful that maybe the Department of Education (DoE) is working on it,” said Radebe

Both the DoE and the Department of Transport (DoT) claimed they have made various attempts to ensure children, especially in rural areas, are able to access schools easily and safely, but things didn’t always go according to plan.

In April 2017 KZN DoE spent R4 million on buying eight ferries to carry pupils across rivers and lakes in different parts of the province, only to find that some of the crafts were not fit for that purpose.

The ferries have since become obsolete.

However, the DoT and other donors have been able to provide bicycles to various pupils who travelled long distances to attend their respective rural schools.

Thuba Vilane, the DoT’s spokesperson, said they usually collaborated with the DoE on initiatives to assist schoolchildren, which required various steps before an agreement was reached.

“When there are pupils that need transportation, DoE usually approaches us, requesting an intervention, and then we respond,” said Vilane.

“The bicycle programme has been ongoing and there are talks of increasing the number of bicycles we have provided previously,” Vilane said.

Muzi Mahlambi, the KZN DoE’s spokesperson said transportation assistance could not be provided to all the needy schools because of a shortage of funds.

“As the department we have done an audit to determine how many more schools and pupils required assistance with transportation. So, we are aware of the need and where it is required,” said Mahlambi.

SUNDAY TRIBUNE

Related Topics:

KwaZulu-Natal

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