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

CityPress - - News - NTOMBIZODWA MAKHOBA and ZINHLE MAPUMULO ntombizodwa@city­ zinhle.mapumulo@city­

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.

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