'I fear my pupils may die in the pit toilets'

19 August 2018 - 00:00 By AMIL UMRAW

The North West has a school infrastructure backlog that would cost the state more than R3bn to address.
The province needs to build 1,420 classrooms, 898 libraries and 1,055 laboratories, which will cost about R1.6bn.
Hundreds of grade R structures and computer laboratories also need to be built, at a cost of about R1.7bn.
Documents tabled at a sitting of parliament's portfolio committee on basic education this week detail the infrastructure backlog.
The estimated R3.3bn to address the backlog does not include other urgent requirements for schools in the province to comply with infrastructure norms. To conform to national standards, 687 nutrition centres and 671 administration blocks need to be built at schools.
There are also 939 schools without sporting facilities, 104 with "partial inappropriate structures", and 154 without proper sanitation.The 154 schools - 119 primary and 35 secondary schools - still use pit toilets and may have to do so for another two years.
A principal at a school in the Bojanala district, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, told the Sunday Times that he fears the infrastructure backlog may have dire consequences.
"We have been battling with this sort of thing for many years and there has been no development at our school even though we have submitted many motivations to the department to help us. As a teacher and a principal, it is a constant fear that one day one of my learners will become a statistic after dying in the pit toilets," he said.
In March, five-year-old Lumka Mketwa drowned in a pit toilet at her school in the Eastern Cape. The same happened to Michael Komape, also five, in 2014 in Limpopo.
The principal added: "We are now being told that there is a delay with getting textbooks for next year. We have some classes where there are more than 50 pupils. Some schools in the area even teach under the trees. This is happening in 2018. The infrastructure is bad; how can we teach when you are concerned the roof might fall on you? We don't know when this fear will end."
In a press statement this week, the portfolio committee said technology should be used to ensure that ablution facilities are constructed at a fraction of the current cost.

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