R6m flushed down non-existent toilets

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Johannesburg - Four Soweto schools are using mobile toilets despite a R6.6 million tender that was awarded last year for the refurbishment and construction of new toilets – a job that was supposed to take three months.

Construction at the schools – Reutlwile Junior Secondary, Phiri Primary, Sediba-Thuto High Primary and Nkholi Primary schools – was supposed to have started in May 23 last year and finished in August.

The work that was supposed to be done includes building new toilet blocks with plumbing and draining facilities, and refurnishing existing ones.

This was meant to have happened over 60 working days from May 23. Nine months after the deadline, however, the schools are still using temporary structures.

At Sediba-Thuto Primary School in Mapetla there are four toilets – two for the girls and two for the boys – for the entire school.

During break, pupils were queueing outside the toilets.

At Reutlwile Junior Secondary, there are six toilets in total.

DA Gauteng education spokesman Khume Ramulifho, who visited the schools, said the number of pupils per toilet was too high.

“In one of the schools, there are four toilets for 99 pupils. By law, there should be eight,” he said.

Asked why the construction of the toilets had not been completed and how much longer the schools would have to use mobile toilets, Gauteng Department of Education spokesman Charles Phahlane said the department was “not in a position to answer” as it had found out about the temporary toilets only on late last week.

“The matter was reported to the portfolio committee on Friday afternoon. We are busy with investigations,” he said.

Meanwhile, according to the Section27, 80 percent of schools in Limpopo use pit toilets.

Some of the pits in Limpopo are full and pupils aren’t able to use the toilets, the NGO said.

The organisation said this forces children to relieve themselves in the bushes or walk home during school hours to relieve themselves.

Generally, the state of the toilets in the province’s schools is unhygienic, and in certain instances, floors and areas surrounding the toilets are soiled.

Section27 and the Department of Basic Education have devised a plan to deal with the dismal state of ablution facilities at the province’s schools.

In terms of the plan, by June 30 this year, 162 priority schools throughout the province will receive new facilities through the provincial infrastructure budgets.

Another 53 priority schools will receive facilities under the national Accelerated School Infrastructure Development Initiative.

According to the Department of Basic Education’s National Education Infrastructure Management System report published in May 2011, the Eastern Cape is among the hardest-hit provinces when it comes to school infrastructure.

Last Friday, a group of prominent South Africans, including Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Professor Njabulo Ndebele, Graeme Bloch and members of the NGO Equal Education, visited four schools in the Eastern Cape to place the spotlight on the infrastructure crisis.

The visit was also a call on Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to publish minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure.

One of the schools visited in the Eastern Cape was Ngangelizwe High School in Mthatha. According to Equal Education, the school’s toilets were in a state of disrepair.

“There is no toilet paper and there are no hand basins. Many of the pit latrines don’t have doors. The school has replaced some of the missing doors with plastic sheeting.

“Pupils take turns holding the plastic sheeting closed for each other when they go to the toilet,” the organisation said.

Writer and academic Zakes Mda said the toilets were disgusting. “No human being should use them, let alone a child. It’s a very unhealthy situation.

“You can see that, even after using these toilets, there is no place where they can wash their hands. It’s quite shocking. It’s something that makes me very angry,” he said.

nontobeko.mtshali@inl.co.za

The Star


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