Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga on Thursday committed to a rapid audit of sanitation and ablution facilities to be done at all schools in the country.
It has emerged that the Eastern Cape was the only province in the country with some schools that have no ablution facilities.
Motshekga made this announcement following an urgent meeting on Thursday with Provincial Education MECs and Heads of Department. This after President Cyril Ramaphosa demanded action following the death of five-year-old Eastern Cape learner Lumka Mthethwa.
The child died earlier this month after falling into a pit latrine at Luna Primary school in Bizana, a rural town in the Eastern Cape.
Speaking at the briefing, Motshekga said that all schools without sanitation would be addressed as a matter of urgency: “We have some schools without any sanitation; schools with pit toilets; schools provided with sanitation but with pit toilets not demolished; schools with inadequate sanitation; sanitation not fit for purpose (age appropriate); schools with insufficient sanitation given increasing learner numbers.”
“One of the big challenges that affects roughly half of the schools that are still reported to have pit latrines is that alternative ablution facilities have been constructed, but that the old pit latrines still remain,” she said.
According to figures released, the Eastern Cape is the only province in the country with some schools that have no ablution facilities at all. It was indicated that there were 37 out of the 5359 schools or “sites” in the Eastern Cape without any ablution facilities.
Motshekga said that the Western Cape and Gauteng provinces indicated that the increased number of learners migrating to these provinces presented new challenges for the adequate provision of sanitation.
The minister said that the department already had an existing plan in place that was intended to eradicate unsafe and inadequate toilets.
“We need to confirm the information we already have and fast-track our existing plans. Our priority is safety. I have always stressed restoring dignity to the education system and to learners to ensure that their human rights are upheld. We know that especially in our rural provinces such as the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo bulk water supply is not supplied and installing a flushing toilet is not a viable option. However, we have been using alternative technology such as the enviroloos to great success. We need to continue to utilise advanced and innovative technological solutions to our challenges in such areas where water is scarce.”
Motshekga said a comprehensive plan, with detailed costs, would be presented to President Ramaphosa within three months.