Saturday, March 15, 2008

Mpofu Primary School

Mpofu Primary School is in the very Northern part of Swaziland. It has approximately 700 students. There is a community bore hole (well) in close proximity to the school. The issue is the electricity bill to pump the water to the community taps including the primary school. Mpofu is a rural community and there isn’t much money. People can’t afford to pay the electric bill. Therefore the chief has the electricity to the bore hole cut off when he deems it should be shut off. The pump only runs a few hours of the day. The chief won’t allow it to run during the day when school is in session. The chief recently required the head master to pay E2000 (approximately $285) so it could get water from the bore hole. However, then someone donated two water tanks to the school and the chief felt is was going to use too much electricity to fill the tanks and would not allow the school to fill the tanks. There is a stand off between the chief and the head teacher of the school. The situation is very tense.

When the school can’t get its water from the bore hole, they purchase water from the government and it is brought in by a tanker truck. The cost of the water is E59 per truck. The truck holds about 8,000 liters of water. The tanks hold 10,000 liters of water. The always ask for the truck to deliver two loads, but it never does. They have to wait for deliveries of the water and typically they only get a delivery every two to three weeks. When the school doesn’t have water from the community bore hole or the tanker truck, the children have to walk to the river which is only about 5 minutes away to fill containers with river water for cooking, drinking, cleaning and for the teachers who live in teacher’s housing on the school site to use. The Swaziland Health Department has told them that they can get the parasite that causes Bilharzia (see my blog on 9-30-07 for an explanation of Bilharzia) and Typhoid from the river water. We asked the deputy teacher (full time teacher and vice principle) if they boil the water before using it. She said no. They really do not have a way to boil the amount of water they use. They cook over a wood fire and the only pots they have are used to cook the mealy meal and beans for the children’s lunch.

This is one of those stories that just breaks your heart and makes one feel so inadequate. I can’t imagine using water and drinking it when you know you could get very sick and possibly even die from it. And yet, what is the choice? As I gather the needs, Mpofu is obviously on the list of schools that need water. So far, 18 out of the 33 Methodist schools in Swaziland don’t have water. I know that number will increase as I learn about the nine schools in the Hhoho circuit that I haven’t visited yet. I left somewhat in shock, just shaking my head, not knowing what to say or do. If I could have a well drilled tomorrow, I would, but I know things just don’t work that way or that fast. So I will continue to pray for guidance, patience and for the children and teachers at Mpofu.

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