Limpopo pit toilet eradication ‘taking too long’
Pretoria - Section27 has said it is preparing to head to court again in a bid to ensure pit toilets in Limpopo are something of the past.
The organisation said the provincial government’s plan to eradicate the toilets only by 2030 was unacceptable and unconstitutional.
Section27 has been embroiled in a six-year legal battle with the Limpopo Department of Education and the Department of Basic Education for the eradication of the pit toilets responsible for the deaths of learners such as Michael Komape.
He lost his life when he fell into a pit toilet.
The departments said all Limpopo schools would have safe toilets between 2028 and 2030.
But Section27 said this was unconstitutional; it is demanding that the education authorities craft a plan for the eradication of pit latrines to ensure a safe learning environment.
After the death of Komape, the court ordered that the departments had to supply each school in Limpopo with safe toilets.
They also had to conduct a comprehensive audit of sanitation needs – detailing the names and locations of all schools with pit toilets in the province – and provide a comprehensive plan for the installation of new toilets.
The organisation said that since that order, the departments had failed to provide accurate data and set out a comprehensive plan for the eradication of pit toilets.
It said the scant time lines provided by the departments, due to budgetary constraints, showed that the sanitation infrastructure projects would probably only start between 2026 and 2028, and be completed between 2028 and 2030.
According to Section27, only a handful of schools have been earmarked for interventions before 2030, with no information about why certain schools have been chosen and others have not.
“The tragedy that befell the Komape family is not an isolated incident and as long as pit toilets exist at schools, learners will be in danger,” Section27 said.
It will ask the court to compel the departments to file a new, consolidated plan about how the government will urgently eradicate all pit toilets at schools in the province and replace them with appropriate sanitation.
The organisation will argue that the departments are simply doing nothing or too little to address the problem.
It said the national department rented temporary sanitary toilets and water tanks for 499 schools in Limpopo as part of the emergency response to Covid-19. But these were only secured for six months and did not reach all the schools that needed them.
It added that safe toilets were a question of life and death for children and that there was currently no coherent plan before the court for pit toilet eradication.
In an affidavit filed in answer to these allegations, Khathutshelo Dederen of the Limpopo department said they were addressing the sanitation challenges and backlogs as best as they could.
According to her, a detailed programme had been developed for the installation of toilets and some schools had already been furnished with safe toilets.
Dederen said the departments had complied with the previous court order to ensure that schools had safe toilets and added that the court should reject Section27’s concerns that there were no plans in place.