Equal Education media statement: Equalisers picket at the Limpopo Department of Education to demand urgent relief for five schools without access to toilets and two without access to water!
13 December 2019
Today, members of Equal Education (EE) are holding a picket at the Limpopo Department of Education (LDoE) in Polokwane, to demand urgent relief for five schools in Ga-Mashashane without access to toilets and two without access to water.
Equalisers (EE’s high school-going members) will hand over a memorandum of demands to the department and deliver handwritten postcards which document the dire conditions they are exposed to on a daily basis in their schools. Learners in the province – and across the country – have aspirations for their futures, but undignified and dangerous infrastructure conditions in their schools make it difficult and almost impossible to reach their goals.
Equalisers will also hand over a copy of EE’s water and sanitation report titled Dikolo tsa go hloka seriti (Schools Without Dignity). The report contains findings from our 2017 visits to 18 schools in Ga-Mashashane in the Capricorn district of Limpopo. At the time, we found that 11 of the schools had plain pit latrines as their only form of sanitation, and four schools had no access to water at all.
A recent snap audit by EE’s post-school youth in 2019 shows that, of these schools, five still use plain pit latrines as their only form of sanitation and two do not have access to water. Although the improvement around these schools is indicative of EE members’ activism in the province, we are dissatisfied with the achingly slow pace in which the LDoE is providing water and sanitation to schools in the province.
The Minimum Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure (Norms and Standards), adopted on 29 November 2013, is a law, with clear deadlines, that compels government to provide all public schools with basic resources. The law determines how schools must look, and by when.
According to the Norms and Standards law, by 29 November 2016 all public schools should have had access to, amongst others, water and sanitation. The law also stipulates that the use of plain pit latrines is banned in schools.
Why has the LDoE failed to meet the Norms and Standards?
The lack of reliable data, a persistent problem that plagues the education sector, is one of the contributing factors to the slow provision of water and decent toilets to learners in the province. While EE knows of at least two schools without access to water in Limpopo, the Department of Basic Education’s (DBE) recent data indicates that all schools in the province have access to water.
Furthermore, the LDoE and the DBE consistently cite a lack of funding as the reason for delays in the timeous implementation of the Norms and Standards law. We however know that the LDoE has been underspending its infrastructure budgets since 2011. At a recent parliamentary meeting, it was reported that by September 2019, the LDoE had only spent 24% of its budget!
A good story to tell?
Unlike her predecessors, the recently appointed MEC of Education in the province, Polly Boshielo, has expressed the need to prioritise the eradication of plain pit latrines in the province. In her maiden budget vote speech, the MEC stated that she would provide sanitation to the 507 schools with only plain pit latrines in Limpopo. She confidently stated, “There will be no talk of pit latrines in the next financial year.”
MEC Boshielo has also indicated that she would be willing to meet with members of EE in the new year.
We will hold the MEC to these promises.
The challenges in schools in Limpopo are urgent as learners battle with a lack of basic resources such as water and sanitation. Schools cannot be deemed to be ready in January 2020, when the school year starts, if they are still faced with dangerous and unhygienic infrastructure conditions!
In our memorandum of demands we call for:
- Immediate relief for the five schools in Ga-Mashashane without sanitation.
- Immediate relief for the two schools in Ga-Mashashane without water.
- A meeting with Limpopo MEC, Polly Boshielo, to discuss EE’s findings on water and sanitation in the province and chart a way forward.
Between 2014 and 2018, two young learners lost their lives because of dilapidated pit latrines in their schools. The LDoE needs to urgently prioritise the five primary schools that use plain pit latrines as their only form of sanitation. The LDoE needs to ensure the two primary schools are provided with reliable access to water. This is what a responsible, caring government does.
For further information or to arrange an interview:
Jay-Dee Cyster (EE Communications Officer) firstname.lastname@example.org 082 924 1352
Leanne Jansen-Thomas (EE Head of Communications) email@example.com 079 4949 411