One of our flagship projects is the construction of a pedestrian bridge across the Uhlanjana River,
KwaZulu-Natal. The bridge will enable learners and communities to access education and health
facilities as well as other services across the river. Crossing the river daily posed a significant safety
and health risk to the school children from both drownings and the threat of crime. More than 120
learners from the remote villages of KwaShukela and Nondabuya, situated near the uPhongolo River,
in the Jozini and uMhlabuyalingana local municipalities, are affected.
SDG: The Uhlanjana River Pedestrian Bridge contributes to SDGs 1,4,9 and 10 by providing infrastructure that facilitates access to education, health care as well as other services, which will create opportunities and develop communities.
The Uhlanjana pedestrian bridge project presented an opportunity for different divisions within the Bank to work together to optimise resource use through the different stages of the project. Our Executives steered the multi-disciplinary team with several divisions within the Bank making a significant contribution. The DBSA’s strategic network and professional relationships with senior leadership of municipalities in the two towns garnered political and government representation. Through effective stakeholder management, we were able to bring together key community leaders including the chieftaincies of all affected communities, school principals, school governing bodies and government departments related to transport, education, infrastructure and the environment.
Several meetings were held to explore the needs of the communities. Crossing the river is necessary to access schooling, health services at the Madonsela clinic, fields for crop farming and many other services. The only alternative to crossing the river was walking approximately 10 kilometres. Often very sick people were pushed across the river by wheelbarrow to access healthcare. All stakeholders agreed that a pedestrian bridge was vital to improve the quality of life of the people in these communities. The DBSA, as project lead and sponsor, facilitated formal agreements between the two municipalities who were willing to take ownership of the asset by signing donation agreements. The respective mayors took responsibility for meetings held with their councillors and alternated in hosting and chairing the sessions. At this point, a technical steering committee consisting of various key stakeholder was constituted and led by a senior project manager from the DBSA. A technical assessment of the cost of the bridge was estimated at R7 million.
The pedestrian bridge is considered as a long-term solution to the challenges facing the community. In the interim, school transport has been provided to learners from Madonsela Primary and Mjindi Secondary schools by Bontshe Inspirations, a newly appointed service provider. Bontshe Inspirations are a member of the steering committee and regularly report on service delivery. The principals of the schools are also in the steering committee and they monitor the operations, service delivery and provide feedback to the committee. The bus transport service has received positive feedback from the beneficiary schools thus far, with any challenges amicably resolved. The quality of the roads remains a key challenge. However, the steering committee is addressing the maintenance of roads to ensure the safety of learners.
learners enabled to access education.
increase in Madonela school learners using the bus - from around 70 to 90.
increase in Mjindi school learners using the bus - from around 80 to 118.
As the bridge is under construction the primary impact this far stems from the provision of scholar bus transport. Interviews with key stakeholders including school principals and deputy principals, the learners, the school governing body as well as community leaders indicated that:
- Both schools experienced an increase in the number of learners within one year of sponsorship of the learner bus transport. Prior to the DBSA’s involvement school enrolment was progressively declining due to the challenge of getting to and from school. Madonela school learners using the bus increased from around 70 to 90 which is a 30% increase, while for Mjindi increased from 80 learners, which is full for one bus, to 118 equating to 47,5% increase. An additional bus was added to meet demand.
- The schools indicated that attendance had improved with zero learners staying away due to an overflowing river or safety and security challenges on the way to school.
- The learners performance at school has significantly improved as they arrived at school fresh and better able to concentrate compared to previously where they travelled more than 10km on foot.
- Community leaders, including traditional chiefs in the area, appreciate the community development impact and the anticipated benefit for the whole community as the bridge will provide access to schools, clinic and farming facilities across the river.
- The project has become a model for inter-divisional collaboration between different divisions in the Bank from which expertise required in the project is sourced.
- The two municipalities of Jozini and Umhlabuyalingana have begun collaborating in many aspects from engaging with different community stakeholders, government departments of education, transport, and environmental affairs. This has resulted in an increased focus on community needs that go beyond political party interests and departmental silo operations.
- The relationships built with school principals has enabled easier and targeted interventions to alleviate the risks and impact of Covid 19. The schools were provided with ECD mobile classrooms that enhanced space capacity to deal with social distancing in the primary school.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt normal operations, a collaborative effort between the DBSA, Bontshe Inspirations and the schools has ensured compliance with COVID-19 safety regulations on the busses through the provision of personal protective clothing and driver assistants to monitor compliance with safety regulations.