Department commits to demolishing pit toilets

An urgent Council of Education Ministers (CEM) meeting has resolved to demolish pit toilets in schools where sanitation facilities have already been provided.

“All our schools without any sanitation are to be addressed as a matter of urgency. Provinces will have to prioritise the provision of age appropriate [toilet] seats for Grade R learners in all schools,” Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga said.

Addressing a media briefing in Johannesburg on Thursday, the Minister said as a temporary measure her department will consider the retrofitting of existing facilities to cater for Grade R learners to alternatively provide temporary facilities.

The Minister called an urgent CEM meeting to ensure the sector responds to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s directives of providing him with an audit of sanitation facilities in schools within three months and thereafter a comprehensive plan to address shortcomings identified in the audit.

The directive was issued after the death of a five-year-old Viwe Jali who died after falling into a pit toilet at the Luna Primary School in Bizana, Eastern Cape.

The Minister had requested that all Education MEC’s, Heads of Education Departments and officials responsible for infrastructure in provincial education departments attend the meeting.

“Schools with inadequate or insufficient sanitation will be addressed as a matter of urgency. School toilets will be adequately maintained and all unsafe and unhygienic sanitation and ablution facilities will be attended to,” Minister Motshekga said.

The meeting also resolved to conduct an audit on all sanitations and ablution facilities in schools.

A comprehensive, costed plan informed by the audit report with all the needs identified for sanitation and ablution facilities for schools will be submitted to the President within three months.

“We will not only give him an audited report but will give him a comprehensive costed plan,” she said.

Minister Motshekga said the department does have some of the information on the outstanding sanitation in the system, this still needs to be verified.

In order to give effect to these resolutions the budget reallocations and reprioritisations as well as the review of Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) allocations and interventions from the National Treasury will be required.

“If we deviate from any plans that we have, we still have to get concurrence from Treasury and also from cabinet,” Minister Motshekga said.

According to the Minister, the Free State MEC reported that they that have set up a unit to deal with sanitation in schools.

“He did urge colleagues that plans on sanitation and ablution should include hygiene which forms an important component of the healthcare and work environment of the learners,” Minister Motshekga said.

– SAnews.gov.za