On 19 November 2013, Equal Education released an audit uncovering a sanitation crisis at Tembisa schools. The audit revealed shocking conditions at many schools. For example, at over half of the 11 schools surveyed, it was commonplace for more than 100 boys or 100 girls to share a single working toilet. Several schools had broken, non-functional or simply no taps. Female learners, in many schools, carry the additional burden of a lack of sanitary bins.
In response to this report, Gauteng Education MEC Barbara Creecy promised to address the sanitation crisis in Tembisa by 15 January 2014. As part of that effort, MEC Creecy visited Tembisa on 12 January 2014 to inspect school facilities. According to media reports, she announced that the Gauteng Department of Education had appointed contractors to fix the sanitation crisis in Tembisa and would be delivering prefab toilet blocks to affected schools. We applaud the MEC for her leadership in addressing this issue and thank her for personally taking the time to clean toilets at Masiqhakaze Secondary School.
We reiterate our call for the MEC to release the details of her plan to address the sanitation crisis in Tembisa. The plan should:
- Establish standards for the supply of sanitation materials, maintenance and monitoring
- Provide timelines indicating when schools will reach these standards
- Include public accountability measures to ensure transparency and fairness during the tendering process
Releasing such a plan will allow communities and learners to anticipate government action and work together to maintain school resources. We wrote to the MEC on 11 December 2013 and asked her to release this plan by 5 January 2014. As of this writing, she has yet to do so.
We intend to continue monitoring the situation in schools to ensure that the MEC delivers a permanent and sustainable solution to the sanitation crisis. Learners in Tembisa should be able to go to schools with:
- a sufficient number of working toilets to meet the needs of all learners
- a sufficient number of taps and a consistent supply of quality water
- sufficient access to toilet paper and soap for all learners
- a sufficient number of functional sanitary bins
- a sufficient number of clean toilet blocks that learners can use without loss of dignity
We call on learners, teachers, principals, school governing bodies and community members to work together to maintain the facilities provided by the Gauteng Department of Education, and hope that this is the start of significant change to, and improvement of, the conditions at these schools. In the words of Equal Education Gauteng Youth Organiser Charity Sebopela, “I want this to be a year where I don’t hear from learners that they are struggling with blocked toilets, bad smells and sanitary pads on the floor. Our campaign will continue until learners no longer have to put their health, dignity and safety at risk on a daily basis.”
Tshepo Motsepe, Co-Head: Equal Education Gauteng – 071 886 5637
Adam Bradlow, Co-Head: Equal Education Gauteng – 072 347 3027