On Saturday, 16 May Equal Education will hold The Schools Social Audit Summit at the YMCA on Radebe Street in Orlando, Soweto. At 15:00 on 13 May, we will be holding a press briefing at Equal Education’s Johannesburg offices to discuss the results of our audit.
In March and April, Equal Education (EE) and a Gauteng-wide coalition conducted a social audit on the school conditions of 200,000 students in more than 200 schools in over 20 different communities in the province – representing 10% of township schools. The social audit found that working class children in Gauteng continue to go to school in the shadow of a sanitation crisis. In those schools where we were able to collect data on the following conditions, we found that:
- Over 100 students per working toilet: At about 30% of high schools, more than 100 students share a single working toilet. By comparison, according to the Wits Justice Project, 65 men share a single toilet at the unacceptably overcrowded Johannesburg Medium A prison
- Broken toilets: One out of every five toilets in primary and secondary schools are locked or broken
- No soap, toilet paper or sanitary pads: Nearly 70% of students do not have soap in their schools while more than 40% of students do not have any access to toilet paper or sanitary pads. This problem is particularly acute in secondary schools, where funds are stretched in overcrowded schools
- Not enough maintenance staff: Over a quarter of schools have more than 400 students for a single maintenance staff. Maintenance staff are overwhelmed
The social audit was carried out by 500 students, teachers, parents and grandparents belonging to a broad range of churches, civics and community organisations. EE partnered with the Alexandra Civic Organisation, Bua Funda, the Gauteng Civic Organisation, Sidinga Uthando, the South African Council of Churches Gauteng, South African National Civic Organisation and the Moral Regeneration Movement to form a coalition that spearheaded the social audit in schools.
The audit followed a rigorous process to ensure accuracy. All EE youth organisers and community auditors were trained in how to conduct the surveys before they began. This training included a background on the laws governing the provision of school infrastructure, basic research methodology and a detailed review of the Schools Social Audit. An experienced trainer also supervised auditors’ first school visit so as to immediately correct any errors in their approach. Having completed training, auditors went in teams of 2-5 to spend 1-2 hours surveying schools, interviewing school members and recording data. The auditors had to complete audit sheets which were handed in to our youth organisers for capturing and data analysis.
While the results show a continued emergency, they also indicate that EE’s Gauteng Sanitation Campaign has yielded tangible victories. The Sanitation Campaign started in August 2013. Our audit of the sanitation conditions of Tembisa high schools at that time showed that more than half of schools had 100 students sharing a single working toilet. This audit, which covered a broader range of schools, indicates the situation has improved.
This is largely because, in response to EE’s 2,000 member march in September 2014, Gauteng MEC for Education Mr. Panyaza Lesufi promised to spend R150 million to upgrade the sanitation conditions at 580 schools serving over 500,000 students. All upgrades were meant to have been completed by 30 November last year. Our Gauteng-wide social audit examined this initiative as well as the state of schools more generally.
While MEC Lesufi’s R150 million initiative has helped improve conditions, the audit shows there is still a long way to go. Unfortunately, MEC Lesufi is not doing all in his power to end this crisis.
When reports began to emerge that his intervention had not succeeded in solving the problem, MEC Lesufi and the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) initially sought to place the responsibility on schools. For example, MEC Lesufi told The Sowetan, "You can't change the toilets of the schools and the leadership of the schools don't maintain them." Later, he promised The Sowetan that he would undertake a forensic audit of the money that was spent. He also told Redi Tlhabi he had already appointed 10 unemployed women in every ward and that the problem would now be fixed by September 2015. Later, he assured her that “there is clear political will from my side” to solve the sanitation crisis.
Though it is good to hear MEC Lesufi pledge his political will, he must also demonstrate it. MEC Lesufi and the Gauteng Provincial Government should immediately meet the following demands:
1. Release Gauteng's plan for implementing Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure. The provincial implementation plans for the Norms and Standards were submitted to the Minister of Basic Education by 29 November 2014. These plans, including Gauteng’s, have not been made publicly available
2. Fully fund the GDE's request for R350 million to maintain school toilets throughout Gauteng. The Province must fully fund maintenance requirements. In addition, the Province must ring-fence this money to ensure it is spent on maintenance. In tandem, it should increase its oversight of school spending
3. Establish a Gauteng-appropriate standard for sanitation, particularly with regards to the ratio of students per toilet. The Norms and Standards state that a secondary school with 1,200 students – like those in Tembisa – can have up to one toilet per 43 girls and one toilet per 100 boys. This is almost double the World Health Organisation (WHO) standard of 25 girls per toilet and 50 boys per one toilet plus one urinal. The high ratios of students per toilet permitted in the Norms and Standards make it difficult to properly maintain toilet conditions
4. Establish a standard for the ratio of maintenance staff per students. This is a recommendation that the GDE's own consultants endorsed (See Consultant Report). Conversations with schools during our social audit suggest that the cleaning staff that MEC Lesufi has promised in each ward are overstretched and not fully effective. School-based maintenance staff is the only long-term solution
5. Publicly provide a model budget for how schools in townships like Tembisa can afford to purchase critical items like soap, sanitary pads and toilet paper. The GDE has acknowledged that the lack of toilet paper in schools is a major challenge (See GDE sanitation report). In the absence of toilet paper, students use other items which clog the toilets. The GDE has stated that schools must use their own money to purchase items like toilet paper. Yet, many school principals state that they do not have enough money to do so
6. Publicly begin blacklisting contractors who under perform. The GDE's own consultants have indicated that the Department must do more to hold its contractors to account (See Consultants Report). MEC Lesufi has stated that he will do this. This list should be available publicly so that communities are aware of progress on this promise
On 16 May, MEC Lesufi will directly address the audit results and community demands at The Schools Social Audit Summit at the YMCA on Radebe St in Orlando, Soweto. The summit will start at 12:00. We will gather at 10:00 to march to the YMCA. Further details to follow soon.
There is a media briefing at 15:00 on Wednesday, 13 May at the Equal Education’s Johannesburg Offices at Office 706, Royal Place, 85 Eloff Street.
Tshepo Motsepe, Co-Head Equal Education Gauteng – 071 886 5637
Nombulelo Nyathela, Equal Education Spokesperson – 060 503 4933
Adam Bradlow, Co-Head Equal Education Gauteng – 072 347 3027
Gauteng Office (Tholakele Khumalo) – 011 333 2523