11 April 2023
Equal Education statement: Equal Education in Limpopo to march to the Limpopo Department of Education (LDoE) to demand urgent sanitation relief for Limpopo schools
Today, Equal Education (EE) learner members will march to the Limpopo Department of Education (LDoE) offices in Polokwane to demand urgent sanitation relief for all priority one schools. Priority one schools are schools with illegal plain pit toilets as their only form of sanitation. Plain pit toilets were completely banned from schools by the Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure (the school infrastructure law) in 2013, and had to be removed and replaced by 2016. It has been 10 years since the introduction of the school infrastructure law, and all of the sanitation delivery deadlines (2016 and 2020) have been missed.
In 2017, EE visited 18 schools in Ga-Mashashane in Limpopo’s Capricorn district to determine whether these schools had access to water supply and safe toilets in line with the school infrastructure law. The results of this investigation are detailed in our report, Dikolo tša go hloka seriti. The initial visits were prompted by an outcry from Equalisers (EE high school learner members) about the terrible sanitation conditions at their schools. Our findings confirmed learners’ reports about unsafe sanitation conditions at school. We found, among other things, that learners in most of the schools used plain pit toilets as the only sanitation option available, while others were exposed to dangerous or broken enviro-loos and ventilated improved pit toilets.
In February 2020, EE and the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) successfully revisited 15 of the 18 schools to check progress in access to safe water and toilet facilities in Limpopo schools. The visits were also motivated by our involvement as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in the Michael Komape court case, where the Polokwane High Court ordered the LDoE and DBE to develop a reasonable plan for replacing all pit toilets in Limpopo schools (the structural order). Using the information gathered during our 2020 school visits, we submitted a supplementary affidavit to the court in which we argued that both the national and Limpopo education departments had failed to fulfill their constitutional duty to provide safe infrastructure for learners in Limpopo. The data gathered on the hygiene and safety conditions that shape the learning experiences of learners at these schools was documented in our second report, Tšhedimošo mo dikolong tša go hloka seriti.
In March 2023, we revisited the 15 schools to monitor the progress of sanitation delivery after the release of our two reports highlighting their struggles. We found the sanitation conditions in some schools unchanged, while others had gotten worse. It is clear that the LDoE continues to be slow in addressing sanitation backlogs and fulfilling its moral and legal responsibilities to learners.
Learners at Tutwana Primary, Seipone Secondary, and Kgolokgotla Secondary schools are still using illegal plain pit toilets as their only form of sanitation. These structures are especially dangerous and inappropriate for younger children at Tutwana Primary School. The use of these illegal structures persists in schools despite several tragic cases of young children losing their lives.
According to the LDoE’s latest progress report, 52 schools categorised under priority one—schools with only inappropriate toilets like plain pits—are still in the planning and design phases of development. Yet based on the department’s revised implementation plan submitted to the High Court in 2021, these schools should have received sanitation upgrades by March 2023. It is urgent that the LDoE provide schools with adequate, proper, and safe toilet facilities to meet the necessary hygiene and safety standards for a conducive learning environment.
As long as these illegal pit toilets exist in schools, children’s rights will continue to be violated. We cannot and will not sit back while the LDoE continuously fails to meet the deadlines for school sanitation upgrades. #FixOurSchools #SeritiMoDikolong!
EE members in Limpopo will be marching to the LDoE offices in Polokwane to demand the following:
- Urgent sanitation relief for priority one schools such as Tutwana Primary School and Seipone Secondary School;
- Immediate provision of mobile toilets to these schools as a short-term interim intervention based on their implementation plan, while the department works swiftly in providing permanent proper toilets.
When: Tuesday, 11 April 2023
Where: We will march from the Thobela FM offices located at 19 Hospital Street, Polokwane to the Limpopo Department of Education offices located at 113 Biccard St, Polokwane.
For further information or to arrange an interview, contact:
Jay-Dee Cyster (Equal Education Communications Manager) firstname.lastname@example.org or 082 924 1352