1 toilet, 1 000 learners

2013-02-15 08:49

Section 27 is again threatening to drag the department of basic education to court – this time to get authorities to provide 111 Limpopo schools with proper sanitation facilities.

The advocacy group said it had an agreement with the department that by the end of January 2013, officials would have produced a plan on how they would address sanitation issues in schools.

Speaking at a media briefing in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, today Section 27’s researcher, Nthabiseng Pooe, said: “There are actually more than 4 000 schools without proper sanitation in Limpopo. The 111 are priority because things are bad there.

“They were supposed to give us the plan by the end of January, but they haven’t. We are engaging positively with them, but if we don’t get the plan from them, we will have no option but to litigate.”

Pooe, who visited schools in Limpopo, said teachers and learners in some schools have to rush to the bush during break to relieve themselves. She played a slideshow of gory pictures of kids relieving themselves in open toilets.

Some schools had dug open holes which kids used as toilets. In other schools pit latrines had been filled to the brim, with faeces covering toilet seats.

Solanga Milambo, a Section 27 activist in Giyani said: “The situation is not good. All these (instances) are just an indication of what is happening in Limpopo. School Governing Bodies are tired of writing letters to the department. You find schools with more than 1 000 learners without a single toilet. During break, they have to go to the bush.”

Skhumbuzo Maphumulo, a lawyer for the advocacy group, said the department was also testing Section 27’s patience regarding the provision of infrastructure to the Jaji Secondary School in the Vhembe region.

“The buildings are in a very poor condition, walls are badly cracked and roofs are leaking, resulting in flooding classrooms. When it rains learners and teachers spend two to three hours of each school day cleaning out water.

“Learners are forced to sit with umbrellas in classrooms. The roof of the principal’s office, which doubles up as a storeroom, library and administration office, also leaks. Consequently textbooks have been damaged by water, some so badly that they are no longer fit for use”.

The SGB, he said, has been writing to the department since 2005, but all to no avail and is ready to litigate if the department fails to respond positively.

“We don’t get pleasure from litigating against the state. It prolongs service delivery and it also forces government to use taxpayers’ money to defend those cases. We try all we can to persuade politicians to act,” Maphumulo said.

“We will exhaust every avenue and if we don’t get any joy we will then go to court”, he said, adding that he was in constant contact with the department.

Pooe also revealed there was a school with more than 133 learners in one class in Limpopo. The department, she said, had also told them that more than 200 000 pupils in Limpopo don’t have desks and chairs.

Department of Basic Education spokesperson Panyaza Lesufi referred all queries to the Limpopo Department of Education, which was not available for comment.

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