Limpopo school toilets are the pits, Section27 finds

21 November 2018 - 07:00 By Nico Gous

The state of toilets at public schools in Limpopo is “gut-wrenchingly disappointing”.

That is what the head of education rights at civil rights group Section27, Faranaaz Veriava, wrote in a report on sanitation at schools in the province.

“But beyond this, it is enraging," Veriava added.

She said she hoped the the report will provide a place “to focus that rage and a mechanism to trigger an honest conversation about how we have failed".

Section27 launched the report - titles “Towards safe and decent school sanitation in Limpopo: The most fundamental of dignities” - on Monday, which was World Toilet Day, at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg.

It concluded the sanitation crisis was an “egregious manifestation of a lack of political will and a lack of understanding of the duties that stem from the right to basic education”.

There are 1,360 schools in Limpopo.

According to the department of basic education:

  • Almost four out of every 10 schools (37%) had only pit toilets; and
  • 857 schools had new sanitation facilities, but the pit toilets were still there.

Section27 collected data from 86 schools in Limpopo, conducting interviews, field and legal research and found:

  • All schools had sanitation facilities;
  • 33 schools had pit toilets and unacceptable sanitation;
  • 10 schools had new sanitation facilities but pit toilets were intact;
  • 35 schools did not have enough toilets for the number of learners at the schools;
  • Three schools had toilets that were age-inappropriate or not disability friendly; and
  • 11 schools had poorly maintained toilets.

“Learners’ rights to dignity, privacy, equality and a healthy environment are being violated by poor sanitation conditions. With every day that these conditions persist, these rights will continue to be violated,” the report said.

Some things in the province had improved, though.

In 2009, half of the schools in the province had between 18 and 57 learners per toilet. By 2015, it was down to between 11 and 28.

Section27 said there was an urgent need for a new political approach to every policy, budget and practice because the provincial and national basic education department trying to solve the problems have been “incomplete, poorly coordinated and based on inaccurate data”.

Section27 said they were limited in compiling the report by:

  • Intimidation by intimidation by provincial officials;
  • Principals who were tired from “constantly talking” while seeing no progress; and
  • Researchers who were unable to contact principals for “long periods of time”.