Pretoria - When NGO Equal Education (EE) marches over dignified sanitation in Tembisa schools to Gauteng MEC of Education Panyaza Lesufi’s office on Saturday, he’ll be marching right along with them.
The march comes in response to the MEC’s promise that in his first 100 days in office he would fix all toilets in Gauteng. However, an EE audit revealed that in Tembisa alone, there were more than 200 blocked or unopened toilets.
This included 50 toilets in prefabricated toilet blocks that the department had delivered to Tembisa schools in January but were yet to be opened.
While opening a new school - Peter Zongwane Primary School - in Tembisa on Thursday, Lesufi also outlined the department’s progress in his first 100 days in office, focusing among others on the sanitation issue.
“Our brothers in EE say they are marching to my offices, but I say there’s no need.
“I’ll march with them because I agree with them. I will be with them in my takkies and cap. I am a champion for it (good sanitation) because it brings dignity to the pupils,” he said. Lesufi said sanitation in schools had been one of the key commitments he had made when he entered office.
An audit of schools with sanitation problems had revealed that 580 schools needed intervention.
“Contractors were appointed to do work in all these schools and a budget of R150 million was set aside for this purpose. To date, construction has been finalised in over 400 schools and the remaining ones will be finalised before the end of the month,” Lesufi said.
He stressed there was no budget for sanitation in schools before he took office. It was something he felt particularly strongly about.
“Every morning I ask the HoD (head of department) to brief me on the progress of the sanitation project. He can tell you the pressure he is under. It’s unfortunate that those who are in the struggle for sanitation (referring to Equal Education) don’t see they have a friend in me,” he said.
Lesufi added: “If my managers can’t do the work, I’ll do it myself. We need to bring dignity back to the children.”
Lesufi’s first 100 days in office targeted various issues his department was tackling, such as creating paperless classrooms in which pupils would use tablet computers and have an “interactive board” replacing chalkboards.
He also addressed pupil performance, saying the department had identified 10 dysfunctional schools that were experiencing problems in governance, safety and security, leadership and curriculum provisioning.
Lesufi said 30 teachers were fired during his first 100 days in office. Of that number, 17 were dismissed for absenteeism, five for improper conduct, three for sexual assault, two for mismanagement of funds, one for dishonesty, another for intimidation and another for contravention of policy.