There was a mass disconnection of water at 20 schools in the Rundu circuit over non-payment of bills amounting to almost N$2 million and as a result learners had to be sent home as from 10h00 on Tuesday after mass water disconnections by Rundu Town Council at defaulting schools started on Monday.
In a futile effort staff at Kaisosi Combined School tried to hide the water meter when they heard employees of the debt collection division of the town council were headed to their school, but despite this council workers soon managed to locate the meter and proceeded to cut the water supply to the school.
There are fears that as a result of the disconnections learners may be exposed to health hazards, especially in hostels.
Some of the schools that are affected include Ndama Combined School, Dr Romanus Kampungu Secondary, Kaisosi Combined School and Kehemu Primary School, to name but a few.
Some headteachers partially attributed the disconnections to the fact that schools no longer have cash to pay for arising emergencies since the introduction of free primary education, as government is supposed to settle all bills.
Government through the Kavango Regional Council is supposed to pay the schools’ water bills, but these are usually not paid on time, resulting in ever-mounting water bills.
“This morning the directorate of education and the Kavango East Regional Council representatives came to negotiate that we give them enough time to make payments, because they feared that the disconnection will affect the schools,” said Bob Haingura, strategic executive for corporate services at Rundu Town Council, who is currently the acting CEO of the town.
“It’s not a good thing for schools to be disconnected this time of the year, so the regional council that is overseeing the directorate of education needs to make a plan to at least make some partial payments so that we can reconnect the water at schools. They must make sure that there is at least a payment made for the sake of schools. We need the money,” Haingura said.
According to him, if the schools do not pay up the municipality will soon be in trouble, as they owe Namwater millions of dollars and the water utility has asked them to pay up or the water supply to the entire town could be disconnected.
“If they don’t pay – they are our biggest customers – and Namwater disconnects the whole town, they will still be affected. We still need to pay Namwater. We have a payment agreement.
“Now we need to honour that payment agreement. I can’t give you the exact figure of our debt to Namwater now,” Haingura added.
The acting regional director for Kavango East Region was not available, but New Era spoke to the deputy director of education, Fanuel Kapapero, who said the regional education directorate and the regional council worked on a payment plan and the first payment would have been made by Wednesday.
“Schools must also put measures in place to manage water to avoid high water bills, as all our schools are affected. We had a meeting with the acting CEO to avoid these things in future,” Kapapero said.
Asked why the water bills have not been paid and how old the debt was, Kapapero said the debt is only two months old and that the town council was paid a huge amount in June. He attributed the mounting debt of schools to a delay in the issuing of invoices.
New Era has meanwhile learned that many private and government institutions are also going to have their water supply cut, as council has already compiled a list of defaulters.