Parents, teachers raise safety fears as the packaging does not have the relevant health safety information carried by products sold in stores.
Durban - The safety of sanitary pads being distributed to pupils at KwaZulu-Natal public schools has come under scrutiny as teachers have raised concerns about the product.

The packaging does not have the relevant health safety information carried by products sold in stores.

The provincial Education Department, believed to be the first department to champion the distribution of sanitary pads, recently established an investigation into the alleged oversupply of pads to schools.

The Daily News has reported that the oversupply of pads - meant for pupils who cannot afford to buy them - has allegedly forced teachers to give them to Grade R pupils because of the lack of storage space.

Schoolboys were allegedly also using the sanitary pads as bandages or shin guards when playing soccer.

Now, concerns over the lack of information on the products - such as the dates of manufacture and expiry, safety warnings and instructions for use - have been elevated to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to investigate.

The sanitary pad distribution initiative costs taxpayers R109 million.

Motshekga has established a task team to investigate the quality and safety of the pads.

The National Teachers’ Union (Natu) had, after receiving concerns from teachers, approached Motshekga after several unsuccessful attempts to address the issue with the provincial department.

Allen Thompson, Natu deputy president, said they were worried about the safety of the products.

The packaging had the KZN Education Department emblem, but no relevant safety information.

“We have discovered that the pads have not been endorsed or certified by the SA Bureau of Standards or any official agencies, like most products,” said Thompson.

The Daily News visited retail stores and found that all pads had safety warnings on how to use and dispose of the product, its manufacture and expiry dates, and the name and contact details of the manufacturer. Most products stated that they were dermatologically tested.

Thompson said teachers were now panicking as parents asked questions and confronted them about giving their children sensitive products that did not bear any quality-assurance accreditation.

“Teachers and parents want to know where these sanitary pads were made.

“This information is important to enable parents to carry out necessary authentication and verification to ensure that pupils do not get exposed to toxic and counterfeit products,” he said.

“It is unfortunate that such a lack of information about the product happens at school, where pupils are being taught about the importance of reading instructions before using any product.

“We wonder what went into the making of these sanitary pads that the department could not label them in the normal way,” he said.

According to the provincial department, the tender was a national transversal one, appointed by the national department to a Verulam-based company.

Parents said while the initiative was a relief to needy girls, they were worried that it was a “no-name” brand item without any information.

Thokozani Magwaza said she was concerned that the manufacturer was not identified.

“I worry about who to contact in case my daughter develops a rash or an infection from using them. Are we expected to report to the teacher who is in charge of distributing them?” she asked.

Vee Gani, South Durban chairperson of the KZN Parents’ Association, said: “We welcome the investigation into the missing information. There is obviously a lot that went wrong, from the oversupply to the lack of information on the product. It is suspicious and needs to be investigated.”

Thirona Moodley, of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA, said they welcomed the call for the investigation.

“The lack of relevant information on the package raises a lot of questions. If the quality of these sanitary pads is of the required standard, why was the manufacturer not brave enough to put the name on the pack?” she asked.

Daily News