11 March 2013

On 8 March 2013, following a series of discussions between SECTION27, the National Association of School Governing Bodies (NASGB), the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the Limpopo Department of Education, the DBE has provided SECTION27 with a plan to address the urgent need for adequate and sufficient sanitation facilities in Limpopo Schools.

The Plan seeks to address the following concerns around sanitation:

  • The toilets at many schools are old and the buildings dilapidated. Some of these buildings are under threat of collapse. Some toilets have collapsed in the recent rains in Limpopo and have left the learners with no functional toilets to use.
  • There are insufficient toilets for the number of learners. In many cases, learners line up for extended periods to relieve themselves, or miss class time to avoid having to line up. In addition, the toilets are not designed for use by such high numbers of learners and this contributes to their unhygienic state.
  • The state of the toilets is unhygienic. Waste is not disposed of efficiently. The floors and surrounding areas are soiled.
  • At some schools, the pits are full and therefore learners cannot use the toilets. The only alternative for learners is to relieve themselves in the bushes or to walk home during the school day to relieve themselves.
  • Most toilets do not have toilet seats. This facilitates the spread of disease. In addition, many toilets do not have doors and learners are not afforded the privacy they are entitled to when relieving themselves.
  • Most toilets do not have any hand-washing facilities.

This has a severe impact on the health of learners. In addition, the lack of adequate sanitation facilities contributes to learner absenteeism from school, particularly teenage girls who stay home from school for up to one week every month because they cannot manage their periods effectively at school.

These toilets are in breach of the rights to privacy, dignity, health and basic education.

In terms of the Plan by 30 June 2013:

  • 162 priority schools throughout Limpopo will receive new sanitation facilities in terms of the provincial infrastructure budgets
  • 53 priority schools throughout Limpopo will receive new sanitation facilities under the DBE’s Accelerated School Infrastructure Development Initiative
  • The toilets to be installed at these schools are Ventilated Improved Pit Latrines (VIP toilets). These toilets are appropriate for the rural setting, which does not have a sufficiently reliable water supply for a water-based sanitation system.
  • Schools without adequate hand-washing facilities will be provided with these facilities, including infrastructure to ensure reliable water supply
  • Schools with dilapidated and structurally unsound toilets will have these existing toilets demolished to remove the dangers of buildings under threat of imminent collapse.

A copy of the Plan is available here.

The DBE has undertaken that this will be followed by a broader plan to address the sanitation needs of all of the schools in Limpopo, 80% of which are still using basic pit toilets which are unhygienic and unsafe.

SECTION27 is encouraged by the willingness of the DBE to recognize the desperate situation of many Limpopo schools, and to put in place measures to address this. On the basis of the plan we will stay litigation which we had considered necessary in the event that the DBE did not commit to urgently improving the sanitation of Limpopo schools. However, we will closely monitor implementation of the plan.

We encourage schools to keep both the DBE and SECTION27 updated as to the progress of implementation of the Plan (the timetable for which is available here).

For comment, please contact Nikki Stein on 082 528-7232 or Nthabi Pooe on 076 612-7188 or Solanga Milambo on 072 865-7771