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Media statement: Equal Education demands the Limpopo Department of Education meet its OWN deadlines to replace dangerous pit toilets in Limpopo schools immediately!

2 April 2024

Media statement: Equal Education demands the Limpopo Department of Education meet its OWN deadlines to replace dangerous pit toilets in Limpopo schools immediately!

Yesterday, 1 April, was the deadline for the Limpopo Department of Education (LDoE) to provide schools under priority 1–schools that solely rely on plain pit toilets—with appropriate sanitation facilities, as part of its court-ordered infrastructure delivery plan. However, the LDoE’s latest implementation report received in December 2023 indicates that 80 of the identified 566 schools under priority 1 have yet to receive proper toilets, with construction still to be started in some. This comes after the LDoE has already missed several legally binding deadlines, including the 2016 and 2020 sanitation deadlines in the Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure (the school infrastructure law). 

When the school infrastructure law came into effect in November 2013, it instantly banned the presence and use of plain pit toilets in schools and set two key deadlines for the provision of adequate safe school sanitation. This law required the LDoE to have replaced pit toilets with safe sanitation facilities as far back as November 2020.

Aside from the legal obligation in the school infrastructure law, the court order related to the tragic passing of Michael Komape after falling into a pit toilet at his primary school in Limpopo reinforced the LDoE’s legal duty, both of which the department has failed to fulfil. As part of the Michael Komape court order, the LDoE (together with the national Department of Basic Education [DBE]) was to develop a reasonable plan for replacing all plain pit toilets in Limpopo schools. The department’s delayed plans were finally released in June 2022, and it committed to providing sanitation upgrades in all priority 1 schools by 1 April 2023. A self-imposed deadline it failed to meet.

When the department missed the April 2023 deadline, Equal Education (EE) members marched to the LDoE to demand urgent and immediate sanitation relief for all priority 1 schools. However, in June 2023 the department responded by shifting the deadline for providing these schools with much-needed relief by another year—1 April 2024. True to character, the LDoE has failed to meet yet another one of its deadlines, and will likely unashamedly move the goalpost again. 

At the beginning of the 2024 school year, EE revisited two priority 1 schools in the Capricorn District, Tutwana and Mashashane Primary Schools as part of our monitoring of implementation of the Komape court order. We found that there has been little progress made since our visits last year, with learners at Mashashane still using dangerous plain pit toilets while learners at Tutwana had four temporary toilets. The experiences of learners in Tutwana and Mashashane are just two examples of a much bigger sanitation crisis in Limpopo. Currently, about 1 900 schools in the province still have dangerous plain pit toilets and over 2 000 Limpopo schools need sanitation upgrades. 

It is unacceptable that the LDoE continues to miss and shift deadlines at the expense of learners and school communities. The department’s disregard for the law continues to violate learners’ constitutional rights daily without any consequences. The lack of political will and urgency shown by the department is increasingly becoming the norm.

We strongly urge government to ensure that:

  • All illegal dangerous plain pit toilets in schools are replaced immediately!
  • All schools are provided with safe toilet facilities as per the school infrastructure law.
  • Adequate funding is provided to address the school sanitation crisis.

[END]

To arrange a media interview, contact: 

Sesethu August (Equal Education Communications Officer) sesethu@equaleducation.org.za 

WhatsApp: 083 890 8723

Call: 063 221 7983

Leanne Jansen-ThomasMedia statement: Equal Education demands the Limpopo Department of Education meet its OWN deadlines to replace dangerous pit toilets in Limpopo schools immediately!