President’s plan to end pit loos, sanitation problems at schools

In the Eastern Cape alone, it would cost R4.4bn to replace pit latrines and address general sanitary problems at schools.
In the Eastern Cape alone, it would cost R4.4bn to replace pit latrines and address general sanitary problems at schools.
Image: A file photo by Sikho Ntshobane

Government will on Tuesday unveil a plan to eradicate pit latrines at schools in honour of former president Nelson Mandela.

After the death of two five-year-old pupils who fell into a pit latrine at their schools, government finally believe they have a plan to eradicate school pit latrines.

Last Tuesday, the department of basic education (DBE) announced that the plan would be unveiled by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday during the launch of a “sanitation appropriate for education” initiative. “It will be a fitting tribute to our beloved former statesman to eradicate pit latrines and restore dignity to South African children in his honour,” DBE spokesman Elijah Mhlanga said.

The initiative was a result of a partnership between DBE, the Presidency, the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT), the Nelson Mandela Foundation and Unicef to address the significant school sanitation challenges facing some of the country’s poorest schools.

The announcement comes less than six months after the death of five-year-old Lumka Mkhethwa, who fell and died in a pit toilet at her Mbizana school.

It also comes four years after the death of another five-year-old, Michael Komape, who fell and died in a pit latrine at his Limpopo school in 2014.

A few days after Lumka’s death in March this year, the president instructed DBE minister Angie Motshekga to carry out an audit of school sanitation facilities and submit a plan to eradicate them within three months.

Mhlanga told the Dispatch that the reports were submitted as per the president’s deadline.

“Subsequent to that, this initiative is going to be launched where the president will provide more details about the way forward,” said Mhlanga.

In the Eastern Cape alone, it would cost R4.4bn to replace the unhealthy and unhygienic pit latrines and address general sanitary problems at schools.

A staggering 3,088 (60%) out of 5,460 schools in the province are said to have no proper sanitation. The province is also the only one that has schools with no sanitation at all.

The provincial department only has a budget to fix 707 of these schools over the next 10 years, MEC Mandla Makupula has said.

He said the backlog would not be met by the annual R1.5bn infrastructure budget the department received from Treasury

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