Eastern Cape’s death trap pit latrines force youngest learners into snake-infested bushes

Issued by Yusuf Cassim, MPL – EC Shadow MEC for Education
05 Apr 2022 in News

You can download a sound clip in English from Yusuf Cassim, MPL.

The lack of appropriate sanitation facilities and total disregard for human dignity by the Eastern Cape Department of Education has forced the youngest and most vulnerable learners in our province to use snake-infested bushes to relieve themselves.

During a recent National Council of Provinces (NCOP) oversight inspection at Lundini Primary School in the OR Tambo District, it was discovered that the school only has six pit latrines, three for girls and three for boys. These facilities are used by both learners and teachers alike, but the latrine seats are too large for the youngest learners in Grade R and Grade 1 to use!

These small, vulnerable children are instead forced to relieve themselves outdoors, with the girls making use of a nearby tree and the boys being forced to use an open patch of grass, where the SGB chairperson informed me they had recently discovered a black mamba.

See photos here, here, here, and here.

Oversized pit latrines pose a fatal risk to the lives of younger learners, as we tragically experienced when five-year-old Lumka Mkhetwa lost her life falling into a pit latrine at Luna Primary School in Bizana.

This reality is a direct violation of their human rights and dignity. The inability of the Department of Education and the ANC government to rectify this long-standing travesty is unacceptable.

There are currently 1 598 schools in the province with inappropriate and unsafe sanitation, including pit latrines. Eradication of these death traps has been pitiful, only 33 schools were provided with sanitation facilities in the 2019/20 financial year, and just 18 schools were assisted in the 2020/21 financial year.

Targets for the coming years do not inspire confidence either, with only 31, 26 and 21 schools being targeted over the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework period. At this rate, it will take over 55 years to eradicate unsafe sanitation in the province.

It is sickening to think that the Education Department has forfeited over R200 million of its Education Infrastructure Grant funding back to National Treasury due to its inability to spend the money while our most vulnerable children are forced into the bushes to relieve themselves.

I have submitted a detailed parliamentary question to Eastern Cape Education MEC, Fundile Gade, to provide the names of all primary schools in the province where their sanitation, including pit latrines, are of a size that is too large for grade R and 1 learners to utilise.

I have already urged the Premier to put our learners first and place the Department of Education under section 100 administration for failing to execute its mandate.

It appears that the Premier is too preoccupied with his campaign for re-election as the ANC provincial chairperson to appreciate the daily reality our children are facing. Our children should not have to choose between death trap toilets or snake-infested bushes to relieve themselves while seeking an education!