Thousands of Equal Education (EE) members will be marching to the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) offices at 111 Commissioner Street in Johannesburg to demand decent and dignified sanitation in Gauteng schools, particularly on the East Rand. The march will start at 11 AM at the Beyers Naude Square opposite the Gauteng Legislature and proceed to the Gauteng Department of Education where a memorandum will be handed over to Gauteng MEC for Education Mr. Panyaza Lesufi at 12 pm.
For nearly a year, Equal Education has been demanding better sanitation in Gauteng schools with little response from government. Our audit of 11 secondary schools in Tembisa in August and September 2013 revealed that at the time it was commonplace at over half the schools for more than 100 boys or 100 girls to share a single working toilet. By comparison, 65 men share a single toilet at the unacceptably overcrowded Johannesburg Medium A Prison, according to the Wits Justice Project.
As a result of EE’s advocacy, in January 2013, the GDE delivered two prefabricated toilet blocks each to five different schools in Tembisa, for a total of 10 new toilet blocks. Yet, seven months later, they remain closed. Despite MEC Lesufi’s promise to unblock and open all toilets in Gauteng by 31 August 2014 – the end of his first 100 days in tenure – during the first week of September, EE members counted 200 blocked or closed toilets in Tembisa. A two week audit of high schools in Daveyton and Kwa-Thema, conducted in August, also revealed that on any given day, up to 80 school toilets are blocked or closed in these areas. In addition, students report that taps are broken and that toilet paper and soap are rarely available.
In response to these crisis conditions, Equal Education will be handing over a memorandum that makes two key demands to be addressed within 14 days of the march:
1. The GDE must open all prefabricated toilets in Tembisa immediately
2. The GDE must release a costed plan for permanently addressing the sanitation crisis in all Gauteng schools, especially on the East Rand. The plan must define sanitation standards, provide timelines for achieving these standards and outline public accountability measures.
Yesterday, MEC Lesufi called an emergency press briefing in Tembisa in response to our march in which he acknowledged that he had not met his promise to open all Gauteng toilets by 31 August and promised to complete the job by the end of September. We are also pleased to note that over the past few days contractors have come to Tembisa to start fixing school toilets. While this is a positive step, we will continue to monitor the situation to ensure the crisis is solved on a permanent basis.
For further information on the Equal Education sanitation campaign in Gauteng, the correspondences with the department and efforts by the organization to also help curb the problem, see our Press Release dated 9 September 2014. (read here)