Equal Education members protest outside Limpopo Department of Education over sanitation disaster

Equal Education members outside the Department of Education offices. Picture: Supplied

Equal Education members outside the Department of Education offices. Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 12, 2023


Johannesburg - The democratic movement of learners, Equal Education (EE), marched to the Limpopo Department of Education (LDoE) offices in Polokwane on Tuesday to submit a memorandum of demands for urgent sanitation relief for all Priority One schools across the province.

Priority One schools are schools with illegal plain pit toilets as their only form of sanitation.

According to the Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure in 2013, plain pit and bucket latrines were banned at schools and had to be removed and replaced by 2016.

EE said it has been 10 years since the introduction of the school infrastructure law, and all of the sanitation delivery deadlines (2016 and 2020) have been missed.

EE members in Limpopo demanded the following from the LDoE:

- Urgent sanitation relief for priority one schools such as Tutwana Primary School and Seipone Secondary School.

- Immediate provision of mobile toilets to these schools as a short-term interim intervention based on their implementation plan, while the department works swiftly in providing permanent proper toilets.

In 2017, EE visited 18 schools in Ga-Mashashane, Limpopo to determine whether schools had access to water supply and safe toilets in line with the school infrastructure law. The organisation found out that learners in most of the schools used plain pit toilets.

Again, in February 2020, EE and the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) successfully revisited 15 of the 18 schools to check progress in access to safe water and toilet facilities in Limpopo schools.

"In March 2023, we revisited the 15 schools to monitor the progress of sanitation delivery after the release of our two reports highlighting their struggles. We found the sanitation conditions in some schools unchanged, while others had gotten worse. It is clear that the LDoE continues to be slow in addressing sanitation backlogs and fulfilling its moral and legal responsibilities to learners," it said.

EE said the visits were motivated and influenced by their involvement as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in the Michael Komape court case, where the Polokwane High Court ordered the LDoE and DBE to develop a reasonable plan for replacing all pit toilets in Limpopo schools (the structural order). Komape drowned when he fell in a school pit latrine.

"Learners at Tutwana Primary, Seipone Secondary, and Kgolokgotla Secondary schools are still using illegal plain pit toilets as their only form of sanitation. These structures are especially dangerous and inappropriate for younger children at Tutwana Primary School. The use of these illegal structures persists in schools, despite several tragic cases of young children losing their lives," EE said.

According to the LDoE’s latest progress report, 52 schools categorised under Priority One schools with only inappropriate toilets like plain pits, still in the planning and design phases of development. Yet, based on the department’s revised implementation plan submitted to the High Court in 2021, these schools should have received sanitation upgrades by March 2023. It is urgent that the LDoE provide schools with adequate, proper, and safe toilet facilities to meet the necessary hygiene and safety standards for a conducive learning environment, the EE said.

EE stated that as long as these illegal pit toilets exist in schools, children's rights will continue to be violated.

"We cannot and will not sit back while the LDoE continuously fails to meet the deadlines for school sanitation upgrades," it highlighted.

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