Durban - The KwaZulu-Natal education department was failing to meet its infrastructure target, forcing pupils at more than 3 400 schools to use unsanitary pit latrines.
The DA was commenting on Tuesday on a reply to a parliamentary question that revealed that 23 906 schools across the country used pit toilets.
MP Desiree van der Walt, the DA’s spokeswoman on basic education, said 3 419 schools in KZN relied on pit toilets, while 518 schools were without electricity.
The Human Rights Commission on Tuesday said it was embarrassing that in 20 years of democracy there were still people, including children, exposed to inhuman conditions.
Ike Mangena, commission spokesman, said: “We’ve been clear about the issues of pit toilets; government must install proper toilets for the citizens of the country, especially in schools.
“In a Seshego school, Limpopo, a child died in a pit toilet early this year and it was only then that proper toilets were installed at the school.
“Do we have to lose more children before we see action from the authority? These are the same appalling conditions our mothers and fathers endured during the apartheid system,” Mangena said.
South African Democratic Teachers Union provincial secretary, Mbuyiseni Mathonsi, and provincial education spokesman, Muzi Mahlambi, said they needed to see the parliamentary response before they could comment.
Van der Walt said: “This is a disgrace. The use of open pit toilets presents a very real danger to students as they breed disease and harbour bacteria which can cause illness. It is extremely dangerous for young children in particular to use these toilets.
“As such, the minister must look to putting measures in place to ensure that these toilets are kept safe in the interim,” she said.
She said her party would ask Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, for a progress report on her department’s interventions in the provinces most affected.
“We would like to know what steps will be taken to address these continued problems. If the minister is serious about transforming education in South Africa, she would do well to consider placing proper facilities in schools for our youth to learn in a safe and clean environment,” said Van der Walt.