Facing crocodiles and possibly drowning while crossing UThukela River to get to school is no longer a reality for learners in KwaDukuza and KwaMaphumulo.
This after the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport built two bridges which cross the UThukela River.
The Nyakana UThukela River Bridge, which cost R89.5 million to build, serves the Mankenganeni community which is located on the northern side of the river.
The bridge links the Umlalazi and KwaDukuza local municipalities and thus benefits learners from Nyakana Combined School, Banguni High School and Tshelabantu Combined School.
The principal of Nyakana Combined School, Zakhe Mathonsi, said punctuality has improved since the construction of the bridge.
“During heavy rains the river would overflow and parents wouldn’t allow their children to risk their lives attempting to cross it. If it started to rain some parents would even ask if their kids could be sent home early as they feared that they wouldn’t be able to get home safely,” said Mathonsi.
When the river was flooded Mathonsi had to contact the South African Police Service to transport learners to school or back home, which is a round trip of about 55km.
“If the river flooded I knew that I wouldn’t see some students for two to three weeks, until it subsided.”
Mathonsi said some learners ended up dropping out of school because they would miss valuable lessons.
“Since I started working at the school in 1994 we have buried 13 learners who drowned in the river.”
Dingakele Seme (16) a grade nine learner at Nyakana Combined School in KwaDukuza said she now gets to school on time and her performance has improved as a result.
“We now get to school on time and we don’t miss any classes. We are thankful to the Department of Transport,” she confirmed.