Equal Education (EE) is shocked and deeply saddened by the untimely and avoidable death of a Grade R learner from Mahlodumela Primary School, who was found in a pit latrine at his school in the village of Chebeng near Seshego in the Limpopo. This tragic incident demonstrates the health and safety dangers of pit latrines and emphasises the urgent need to address school infrastructure, particularly in rural areas where the poorest and most under-resourced schools are in the majority.
The 2011 National Education Infrastructure Management System Report tells us that most schools across the country continue to exist without adequate sanitation. Of the 24 793 public ordinary schools:
-11 450 schools are still using pit latrine toilets
-2402 schools have no water supply, while a further 2611 schools have an unreliable water supply
-913 do not have any ablution facilities
After more than three years of campaigning by EE, the legally binding Regulations for Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure were adopted by the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, on 29 November 2013. The Regulations say that all schools must have sanitation facilities that are easily accessible to all learners and must provide privacy and security, promote health and hygiene standards and be maintained in good working order. Significantly, the Regulations prohibit plain pit and bucket latrines in schools, but set a seven year timeframe to eradicate this category of toilets. This means that the 1358 schools in Limpopo (including Mahlodumela Primary) where some form of sanitation exists will only be upgraded within seven years. Clearly this is an inadequately long timeframe to address the urgent need to improve access to safe and hygienic sanitation in schools.
The Constitutional Court has interpreted the right to a basic education as ‘immediately realisable’. We believe that this includes the right to safe and hygienic sanitation.
The Regulations for Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure came into effect on 29 November 2013; this means that government must already have begun implementing them.
Billions of rands allocated for the delivery of basic services and the eradication of inappropriate schools are not spent. This slow pace of delivery is caused by the lack of capacity within government. Unless the issue of lack of capacity is addressed, more schools will still be waiting for promises to be fulfilled.
We call on all provincial education departments to:
– Eradicate all pit latrines in our schools immediately
– Implement the Regulations for Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure immediately
– Improve the capacity within provinces and the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) to deliver basic services and eradicate inappropriate schools.
For comment please contact:
Yoliswa Dwane – EE Chairperson: 076 706 2338 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Brad Brockman – EE General Secretary: 072 267 8489 / email@example.com
 The National Schools Monitoring Report, 2011, at page 184.