While DBE shifts goal posts, learners continue to suffer indignity and danger of pit toilets

Issued by Baxolile 'Bax' Nodada MP – DA Shadow Minister of Basic Education
08 Nov 2023 in News

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Baxolile ‘Bax’ Nodada MP

The Department of Basic Education’s (DBE) response to the Nguvu Change’s petition to eradicate pit toilets in Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape seems quite disingenuous. In response to the organisation’s presentation of its petition to the parliamentary portfolio committee on basic education yesterday, DBE asked why they did not interact with the Department directly but chose to raise its concerns in Parliament.

However, whenever the issue of pit toilets and DBE’s continued missed deadlines and shifting goal posts are raised, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and her Department become very defensive.

Therefore opposition parties, including the DA, stakeholders, and communities often have to find other means to ensure that the ANC government fulfils its mandate.

It is important to note that it is difficult to determine just how many schools are still forced to rely on pit toilets.

The Sanitation Appropriate for Education (SAFE) Initiative initially targeted 3 898 schools. In April 2023, and in response to a parliamentary question (PQ) from the DA, the Minister said that the initial number of 3 898 was amended to 3 397, and that new schools were added to the programme in 2023. She further stated that of the 3 397 schools, sanitation projects at 2 489 schools have already progressed to practical completion, with 908 schools remaining.

In a more recent PQ on the matter, however, the Minister said that of the “3 382 sanitation projects, 2 911 have been completed through SAFE, and that the remaining 471 sanitation projects are scheduled for completion in 2023/24”.

In another PQ from 2023, the Minister revealed that 5 201 schools continue to make use of pit toilets, while 686 mud schools and 47 schools build with asbestos structures.

The Annual Performance Plan (APP) 2022/23 mentions 3 395 initial schools, of which 2 388 schools have been serviced.

The APP also states that 1 047 schools were provided with toilets through Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI), yet the Minister replied to a PQ that “DBE does not do renovations in ASIDI to eliminate pit toilets”.

In 2021/22, an additional 622 schools with pit toilets were identified.

The DA’s own oversight tour earlier this year found pit toilets at 81% of the schools we visited. At some schools, the replacement projects had been completed for some time, but learners and staff were still forced to use dangerous pit toilets because the Department had yet to handover the facilities to the school.

It seems the Minister and her Department have lost sight of the horrendous and dangerous lived reality of thousand upon thousands of learners who cannot attend school in dignity because of their failures.

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