Electricity theft places special-needs school in peril
02 Aug 2013 11:58 Victoria John
Illegal connections are sucking a special-needs school dry and endangering staff and pupils.
Exposed electricity cables pose a danger at Nokuthula Special School. (Delwyn Verasamy, MG)
Pupils with mental and physical disabilities at a special school in Johannesburg’s Alexandra township run the risk of being electrocuted or caught in a fire because of the illegal electricity connections that surround the school.
Nokuthula Special School’s ability to manage this grim problem has been hindered by the Gauteng education department’s decision to cut about 50% of the school’s funding, its governing body said.
“Sometimes, electricity thieves run wires over the roof to the shacks behind it. Some of these wires are not insulated … A naked wire on a steel roof means the whole roof is live,” said Byron Maphike, chairperson of the school’s governing body.
This week the Mail & Guardian saw wires connected to the school’s substation, located a few metres from the school wall, dug into shallow trenches around the school to supply desperate families living in shacks behind the building who have no electricity.
The connections were not all underground. Nests of exposed wire could be seen every few metres sticking out of the trenches.
“Careful … If you touch that, you’re gone,” Maphike said during the M&G’s visit on Tuesday.
“We tell our children, but they don’t understand how dangerous these wires are.”
In September last year part of the school burned down because of a fire caused by these illegal connections, causing damage of about R2.2-million, Maphike said.
“The fire happened on a Saturday when there was no one around, thank god,” he said.
“Where did you park your car? Outside on the road? Because about six weeks ago a teacher’s car caught alight because the pressure from its weight was too much for the illegal connections running a few centimetres under the road.”