GLOBE and Phoenix Primary School in Kwekwe is under siege from illegal gold panners digging randomly within its premises thereby exposing pupils to danger, a development that has seen the institution’s headmaster proposing the relocation of the school.
Located a stone’s throw from the city centre, the school used to be owned by Globe and Phoenix Mine, hence some believe that it is located in a gold rich area, thus attracting the attention of illegal miners.
So daring are the illegal miners that they are even digging pits inside classrooms with some trenches running underneath classroom blocks.
Classroom blocks and other areas within the school such as the school garden and football pitch have been destroyed by the panners who usually carry out their activities at night.
In addition to the threat posed by illegal miners, the school is surrounded by registered mines that are operational and shafts are believed to be running underneath the school.
It is believed that there are underground mining shafts beneath the school leaving the school in danger of giving in at any moment.
On Tuesday, a team of officials from the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Development, Environmental Management Agency (EMA); Kwekwe City Council, among others, visited the school to establish the extent of the damage caused by the miners.
A Chronicle news crew was part of the delegation.
There are pits all over the school yard with some having been dug in classrooms.
Some teachers said they feel some classrooms may give in, hence they were now conducting lessons outside.
An ECD block has since been abandoned as it is believed that there is a huge shaft beneath it.
During the tour, some learners were playing near a very deep pit which is located near the perimeter fence.
The school’s headmaster, Mr Isaac Bvupajena, said he was having sleepless nights over the threat caused by illegal mining activities and his wish is for the school to be relocated.
“We are having a torrid time from the illegal miners.
They destroyed the fence to gain entry.
They are digging everything and everywhere leaving a lot of pits at the school.
Our learners are in great danger from the pits as anything can happen to them at any time,” said Mr Bvupajena.
He said they have only one security guard who is usually overwhelmed by the illegal panners who will usually be wielding machetes.
He pleaded with authorities to ensure that, if possible, the school is relocated.
“My wish is that the school be relocated if possible so that our learners can be safe.
The learning environment is not conducive at all as it is.
We have however managed to close and rehabilitate some of the pits that were left open for the safety of our learners,” he said.
Midlands provincial mines and explosives inspector Mr Martin Mafara said learners were in danger from the shafts that run underground.
“There is strong suspicion that there are shafts that run under the classroom blocks and it’s not safe for the children.
The purpose of our visit, therefore, was to establish whether the school and the mines around can coexist; to see whether the school can operate as well as having activities at nearby mines taking place,” he said.
Mr Mafara said they will prepare a report which will be presented to the district civil protection unit (CPU) which will help in deciding the way forward.
“The rampant illegal mining activities are for all to see as you can see the perimeter fence and the garden fence were destroyed.
This is definitely not safe for the learners here.
However, we cannot give you the recommendations as of now but you can find out through the CPU which we will furnish with the report that will help in the way forward,” he said.
EMA acting Midlands provincial principal officer, Mr Union Mapwashike said there was definitely a cause for concern at the school and urgent action was needed.
“There is an indication that mining activities are taking place within the school premises, which is not safe for anyone within the school.
There is a need for a further assessment to ascertain the integrity of the underground system and this should be done as a matter of urgency,” he said.
Mr Mapwashike said they too, will prepare a report that they will give to the CPU for a way forward.
Kwekwe assistant District Development Committee chairperson Mr Reason Machina said once they receive the reports, they will call for an urgent meeting to try and come up with a way forward.
“We will hold a meeting once we receive the reports from the relevant ministries.
And we are hopeful that those reports and the meeting will definitely give us a way forward,” he said.
The underground mining shafts do not affect the school only but it is widely believed that infrastructure located near the Globe and Phoenix Mine is on top of a number of shafts.
Calls have been made for the construction of a multi-purpose Government complex in Kwekwe so that the old and dilapidated office which houses the civil court, DDC offices, and Registry among other Government departments believed to be precariously seated on top of a shaft, be relocated.