As a reply to a written question in Parliament, Minister Angie Motshekga and the Department of Basic Education (DBE) stated that they plan to get rid of all pit latrines in schools across the rural areas of South Africa by March 2022.
“The SAFE programme (Sanitation Appropriate For Education) was launched to address the sanitation at 3 898 schools that reportedly were still dependent on basic pit toilets,” said Motshekga.
She also stated that due to rationalisation, 427 schools out of the 3 898 have been closed, The Star reports.
“A further 725 of these schools have been assessed and the sanitation has been confirmed to be of an appropriate standard, although some of these sanitation facilities require some form of maintenance.
“The remaining 2 746 schools require intervention to eradicate the dependency on basic pit toilets.”
Majority of the schools, according to the publication, were in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. The former had 1 168 schools while the latter had 997 schools.
With regards to the schools in the inland provinces with the highest totals, Limpopo had 298. The Free State follows with 123.
The publication states that Mpumalanga had 106 schools, while the North West had 55 schools using the pit toilets.
Gauteng and the Western Cape had no schools using pit toilets, says the publication.
“Of these 2 746 [identified] schools, the work at 612 schools is practically completed,” said the minister. “There are construction projects at a further 420 of the schools.”
Representatives from the Public Service Commission (PSC) – who condemned the use of the pit latrines – made surprise visits to 60 schools to check if they were abiding by the rules to limit the spread of COVID-19.
They expressed their concern that schools in the Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West provinces were still using pit toilets, deeming them unhygienic.
“Expecting learners, teachers and staff still to use them is a clear infringement of their human dignity,” said the PSC. “Furthermore, these facilities have proven to be unsafe to use, particularly for young learners, as two [5-year-olds, Michael Komape and Lumka Mkhetwa] in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo lost their lives while using such facilities.”
In 2014, Komape fell into the pit toilet and drowned at his school, Mahlodumela Primary School in Limpopo.
Mkhetwa also fell and drowned in the pit toilet at her school in the Eastern Cape in 2018, reports the publication.
That same year, another 5-year-old in the Eastern Cape almost drowned after falling in the pit.