Equal Education (EE) is celebrating World Toilet Day today by releasing the results of its social audit of the sanitation conditions of 48 schools serving about 50,000 students in Tembisa. The day marks exactly one year since EE publicly launched its campaign to improve school sanitation in Gauteng.
EE completed this audit after its campaign, which culminated in a 2,000-member march to the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) on 13 September, won significant commitments from Gauteng MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi. At an emergency press conference two days before the march, MEC Lesufi committed to spending R150 million on sanitation upgrades for 580 schools, including all 51 schools in Tembisa. In a show of transparency, he provided EE with a list of the scheduled improvements for each Tembisa school and promised to finish the job by 19 September.
The audit, which the GDE says “added pressure to ensure delivery,” showed that:
· The GDE contractors have provided some form of relief to all of the schools we audited, including upgrading toilets, pipes, taps, ceilings, roofs and tiling. This is a significant victory for EE members in Gauteng and we applaud MEC Lesufi’s actions.
· Still, at 44 of the schools, EE noted outstanding sanitation issues that need to be addressed, such as poor quality or incomplete work.
· Over 10% of the schools audited, or 5 in total, did not have enough working toilets to fulfil the minimum requirements prescribed in the Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure. This harms students’ education, health, dignity, safety and security. The Norms allow over 100 male students per toilet plus urinal and over 50 female students per toilet at large schools like those in Tembisa..
· Nearly three quarters of schools did not have enough toilets to meet any respected international or national sanitation norm. For example, the World Health Organization states that schools should have a minimum of one toilet plus one urinal per 50 male students and one toilet per 25 female students.
· Thousands of students, particularly those in secondary schools, continue to suffer without sufficient access to toilet paper, soap and sanitary pads.
For this audit, EE compiled a list of the promises MEC Lesufi had made to each school. In September and October, we visited the schools’ bathrooms to see what had changed. We also talked to students, principals, teachers and cleaning staff to understand the problems in their toilets. EE is currently undertaking a similar audit in Daveyton, Kwa-Thema and Tsakane.
EE submitted the audit’s findings to the GDE on 3 November and asked that MEC Lesufi address all outstanding issues. We further reiterated our demand for a costed sanitation plan for the province that includes (1) Gauteng-appropriate standards with regards to school sanitation, infrastructure, maintenance and monitoring; (2) timelines for when schools will meet these standards; and (3) public accountability measures so that communities can monitor implementation. As of writing, we are yet to receive a response to our letter.
EE publicly launched its sanitation campaign on 19 November 2013 when an audit of 11 high schools there found that it was commonplace for over 100 boys or girls to share a single working toilet. By comparison, the Wits Justice Project reports that 65 men share a single toilet at the unacceptably overcrowded Johannesburg Medium A Prison.
For further information:
Tshepo Motsepe, Co-Head: Equal Education Gauteng: 071 886 5637
Nombulelo Nyathela, Equal Education Spokesperson: 076 900 1029