The South African village Sahlumbe located in the province of KwaZulu-Natal is demanding that a bridge be built across Tugela River, a crocodile infested river, so the children won’t have to swim across to get to school. Some students at the youngest age 7 have been swimming across the river since the community boat was stolen. There are about 70 households in Sahlumbe and no one owns a car and there are no buses. And for students to get to school without crossing the river they would have to take a 20km or 12 mile detour. On school days 150 children swim across the river in their underwear using rubber tires and buckets to stay afloat and to keep their school uniforms and books dry.
" I worry all the time. There are dangerous animals in there, especially crocodiles," says This has been a rising concern because some of the children from Mabizela High School often arrive tired and unable to concentrate, she says. "They sit in class and shiver because of the cold and they can’t study well because they are worrying about how they are going to get home."
Thuthukani Primary School headmistress Hlengiwe Mthembu.
"It is very hard for them. After heavy rains the river gets very full. It can take up to 10 minutes to cross."
Local counselor Sibusiso Nbatha says most of the families moved to Sahlumbe three years ago after being evicted from the land they were living on. He says some families have no choice but to let their children swim across the river because they don’t have any means of transportation. Not all the children can swim so some ride on the tires or their parents carry them across. The river is too deep for the adults to walk across and not all of them can swim," Mr. Nbatha says.
And it is not only children who cross the Tugela River, in 2003 a pregnant woman tried to reach the only hospital in the area drowned while trying to reach the opposite bank. And in 2005 two children from the same family lost their lives to the river. Mr. Nbatha says even the stolen boat was not safe to cross the river with; it was old and full of holes and was used by the whole village. He says he has argued with department of transport for five years. "They just keep us waiting," he says.
"It’s very frustrating. You can see the school from the opposite bank but you just can’t reach it."
How would the bridge affect the village? Could it possibly diminish the crocodile population, could it even raise the number of methods for transportation? Leave me a comment telling me what you think.
Signed Yours Truly,
image borrowed from BBC news