Starving to send kids to school
Impoverished Mpumalanga parents spent R300 for their children to be transported 30km away to attend better-performing schools in Gauteng
It was a choice between sending their children to poorly performing schools in their Mpumalanga neighbourhood, or spending their last food money to send them to better schools in Gauteng. The parents of the 18 pupils who died in a horrific taxi crash last week chose the latter. Last Friday afternoon, the taxi the school children were travelling in collided with a horseand-trailer truck on the R25 between Bronkhorstspruit and Groblersdal. Seven children were rescued from the 22-seater vehicle, which was carrying 26 passengers.
Many of the parents are unemployed and survive on social grants. But despite being so poor, they made the financial sacrifice to better their children’s lives.
Every month they parted with R300 for each child to be transported to better schools at least 30km from their homes in Wolvenkop and Verena, Mpumalanga.
According to census data collated by Wazimap, in Thembisile Ward 11 – where Wolvenkop and part of Verena lie – only 21.7% of residents have jobs, 94% have only pit toilets and the average household income is around R14 000 a year. The semi-rural town has no proper streets and the gravel roads are mined with potholes.
The parents who lost their children were wracked with hopelessness and poverty. Some had no food to eat in their homes.
Ernest Maziba, who lost two children in the tragedy (Thembelani and Siyabonga Phoswa), said life was tough in Verena.
“We barely afford to put food on the table, but circumstances force us to take our children to school very far from where we live, because we want a brighter future for our kids,” he said.
Maziba is a domestic worker who earns R1 300 a month. On his meagre salary he had to feed six children, two grandchildren and his unemployed wife, Florence Phoswa. He has to buy food, electricity, water, pay for his children’s school transport as well as his own transport to work.
Like Maziba’s family, almost the entire Verena community is poverty-stricken.
Another parent, Phressie Mtsweni, who’s 11-year-old daughter Jabulile died in the crash, said they had to wait for an hour for KwaMhlanga’s firefighters to arrive. The nearest fire station is 45km away.
Residents who asked not to be named said water was a luxury in Verena.
“Out of 10 households, it is only two houses which can afford to buy water, or own a water tank.
“This is our daily life and we are now used to it, we have no choice but to accept it,” one said.
Another added that they have one clinic in Verena with poor facilities.
“There is a shortage of nurses in that clinic and very ill people are turned away on a daily basis. This leads to people dying day and night at the clinic,” she said.
Meanwhile, DNA tests were conducted last week on the children’s badly burnt bodies and forensics experts are still busy with the tests. Parents whose children died were told to supply their children’s toothbrushes and combs so that authorities could identify them.
Yesterday, the driver of the minibus, Amos Mnguni (73), was buried at his home in Wolvenkop.
On Wednesday, a memorial service will be held for the children at Sokhulumi village at 1pm. On Thursday, a public memorial service will be held at Verena’s open ground from 11am.