Toilet conditions in Gauteng township schools worse than prison

2015-05-13 18:53

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Johannesburg - The conditions of toilets in some Gauteng township schools are even worse than overcrowded prisons, according to the results of a social audit spearheaded by Equal Education (EE).

"In [some of the audited schools] more than one hundred students share a single working toilet," EE co-head Tshepo Motsepe told reporters in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

By comparison, according to the Wits Justice Project, 65 men share a single toilet at the "overcrowded" Johannesburg Medium A Prison.

The Department of Basic Educations' minimum norms and standards for schools state that a school with 1200 pupils, can have one toilet for 43 girls and one toilet per 100 boys.

This was almost double the World Health Organisation standard of 25 girls per toilet and 50 boys per toilet plus one urinal.

Motsepe said that the minimum norms and standards were not perfect, since its ratios make it difficult to properly maintain toilet conditions.  

"We have had to settle with this one, which is not perfect. The ratio of pupils per toilet is still an issue," he said.

"However, we in Gauteng don't have mud schools, and most Gauteng schools do have access to water. This means that we can go beyond the ratio [set out in the norms]."

The social audit was conducted in March and April on the school conditions of 200 000 pupils in more than 200 township schools in Ekurhuleni, Tshwane,  Johannesburg, Sedibeng and the West Rand.  

This represented about 10% of township schools in the province.  

It was carried out by 500 students, educators, parents and grandparents belonging to churches and civic and community organisations.

Upgrade promises

The audit was done following promises by Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi to spend R150m to upgrade the sanitation conditions at 580 schools.

The audit also found that one in every five toilets in primary and secondary schools are locked or broken, while nearly 70% of students in the audited schools do not have soap in their bathrooms and nearly 40% do not have access to toilet paper and sanitary pads.

"Soap and toilet paper should not be a matter of luxury," Motsepe said. "This is a matter of dignity."

A Grade 10 pupil from Tembisa who was at the briefing told News24 that she experienced poor sanitation and the shortage of toilets every day.

"We end up having queues going to the toilet, and after break we experience the problem the most," she said.

"We sometimes wait for very long and end up being late for classes."

She said it was possible to rectify the situation.

"We don't need new toilets to be built. We just need them fixed."

When asked if vandalisation by pupils led to the broken toilets, she said: "I have manners, I learnt them from home. How can all of us vandalise the toilets?"

EE also called for the Gauteng government to fully fund the department's request for R350m to maintain toilets in the province, publicly provide a model budget for how schools in townships can afford to purchase soap, sanitary pads and toilet paper, and publicly blacklist contractors who underperform.

Motsepe said Model C schools often got more money from government than township schools, despite their higher fees.

"What we are seeing in most of the township schools is [the] same reality experienced by poor people in Gauteng," he said.

"There is money running in billions that is spent on school infrastructure, where is this money going?"

Lesufi is expected to speak on the results of the audit at the "Schools Social Audit Summit" at the YMCA in Orlando, Soweto on Saturday.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  health

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