#EndSchoolPitToilets: From EC to KZN, pit toilets persist across the country

Issued by Baxolile ‘Bax’ Nodada MP – DA Shadow Minister of Basic Education
30 Jul 2023 in News

The past two weeks the DA’s Shadow Minister of Basic Education, Baxolile Nodada, Shadow Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Marina van Zyl, provincial DA spokespersons and local DA councillors did oversight at various schools that still rely on pit toilets in the provinces.

The #EndSchoolPitToilets campaign started in the Eastern Cape where learners and staff are still forced to suffer the indignity of using dangerous and unsanitary pit toilets.

At Bantwanana Junior Secondary School in Mqanduli, learners are forced to relieve themselves outside as the Zink toilets that were donated by the community as the Department of Basic Education (DBE) has failed to ever provide the school with toilets of any kind. These toilets are now so full of faeces that learners and teachers often get infections from the horrible toilets.

Despite these horrendous conditions, Bantwanana has never formed part of the Department’s Sanitation Appropriate for Education (SAFE) Initiative, nor has the Eastern Cape DBE budgeted for sanitation facilities at the school.

At the Qwe Qwe Junior Secondary School, grade R learners have learned to shield each other when they are forced to use the dangerous, unhygienic open pit toilets. The size of the seats isn’t suitable for small children, who are also forced to clean the toilets with a stick once they are full. When it rains, the learners have to use the veld to relieve themselves.

Although the Department has done numerous oversights at the school, it has not been prioritised for safe toilets.

The learners at Mngcisane Senior Primary School in Mount Frere still use the pit toilets built in 1993.

Not only are these toilets a hygienic nightmare, their seats are too big for the small grade R learners that are also forced to make use of them. Recently, a goat was found dead in one of these pit toilets and parents, as well as children, fear that they might be next.

What is equally worrying is the distance and location of these pit toilets from the school. It is roughly 200 meters from the school, down a hill and very close to the very low, open fence which makes small children an easy target for possible trafficking, rape, or attack.

Sadly, this school has also not been earmarked for either the SAFE or Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) programmes meant to eradicate pit toilets at schools.

The parents that we met at Nomkholokotho Senior Primary School were extremely worried about the danger of several horrific open-air pit toilets at the school that’s not in use but have never been demolished. They are rightly worried that their children might fall in when they’re playing outside and pleaded for immediate intervention.

The staff toilets are made of Zink, while those meant for the learners are overflowing and not serviced, despite the fact that the school has a reliable water supply.

Sadly, pit toilets are not the only dangerous infrastructure that the school is forced to deal with. The school’s crumbling infrastructure has already endangered learners when the ceiling collapsed, and the fear is that it will happen again. As a result, learners have to make use of classrooms built in 1989. There are not enough desks for all the learners, so they have resorted to using their chairs as desks – kneeling on hard floors for a full school day in an effort to get a quality education.

Learners at Niyona Primary School in Mzimvubu are forced to use dangerous Zink pit toilets that fail to meet the infrastructure norms and standards for schools.

The DA donated shoes to learners during our oversight to ET Thabane Primary School in Ugie. We also wanted to assess whether President Cyril Ramaphosa has made any progress on his promises to rebuild this asbestos school – the only non-fee-paying primary school in the area.

Even though ET Thabane was identified as one of the schools to benefit from the ASIDI programme, there has been no intervention from the Department since the DA has started doing oversight at the school in 2020. The atrocious conditions persist with asbestos and other dilapidated infrastructure regularly raining down on learners and staff. There are allegations that the money meant to upgrade the school has been squandered by EC DBE.

This portion of the #EndSchoolPitToilets campaign ended in iLembe, KwaZulu-Natal, where the DA did oversight at three schools.

The Ensikeni Primary School principal is forced to fetch water from the river for learners and staff to drink, wash their hands and cook their food. When the Department built the school in 1995, it was without the necessary water and sanitation infrastructure. In 2020, a borehole was donated to the school, which unfortunately broke down soon after. Letters to the Department pleading for intervention remain unanswered, and Ensikeni’s 330 learners now have to relieve themselves in the bushes.

  • (Please see attached pictures here and here.)

The Prospect Farm Primary School was built in the 1950s. Due to a broken borehole and the Department’s unfulfilled promises, the 14 flush toilets are locked. The 390 learners and staff have to make use of two pit toilets.

Despite Matamzana-Dube Secondary School’s adequate water supply and the Department’s 36 installed ventilated improved pit toilets (VIPs), the more than 900 learners and 53 staff are forced to use six portaloos as DBE has yet to officially hand over the other latrines. This situation has understandably led to some frustration and the community has protested the Department’s dragging of feet and the alleged tender irregularities of the project.

The DA has always been passionate about the eradication of dangerous school infrastructure, and since May this year, we have visited more than 65 schools at part of our #EndSchoolPitToilets campaign – 24 in Limpopo, 21 in KZN, 15 in the Eastern Cape, and 5 in North West (excluding the schools visited the past two weeks).

Of those 65 schools visited, only 5 did not have any pit toilets, and only 53.8% (35 schools) had a water source close to the toilets where learners can wash their hands.

Only 18 schools (27.7%) indicated that the Department had contacted them regarding the eradication of the pit toilets.

The DA will continue the fight to ensure that all learners receive a quality education in a safe and dignified environment.