School’s out. No working toilets

2013-03-24 10:01

Eastern Cape school closes at 12.30pm every day so pupils can use the loo at home.

Children as young as five are being sent home after only half a day because there are no working toilets at their East London school.

A day before South Africa marked Human Rights Day this week, City Press visited Bulugha Primary School on the outskirts of East London to find that it closed at 12.30pm, for no other reason than to allow pupils to relieve themselves at home.

The school governing body says the Eastern Cape education department knows what’s happening at Bulugha – in fact, it claims the department instructed it to send pupils home early each day.

Bulugha’s toilets are broken and unusable, littered with human faeces and swarming with flies.

City Press was at the 12.30pm assembly where pupils gathered to say their prayers before the principal – who refused to comment or give her name – told them “school is out” and sent them home.

School governing body chairman Aaron Mkontwana confirmed that the school, which teaches 250 pupils in grades R to 7, closed at 12.30pm every day.

Mkontwana said that when the matter was brought to the attention of the department, it suggested that classes be shortened while it worked on a solution.

The toilets have been completely broken since October, he said.

“As a community, we have resolved to build pit toilets in order to assist. The situation is bad. Children use the bush while they are still at school. It is absurd,” he said, adding that even teachers used buckets to relieve themselves.

“It’s inhuman. How can people be treated like that?”

The Democratic Alliance, which visited the school earlier this month, said it was shocking that pupils were made to “choose between education and toilets”.

The DA’s Eastern Cape education spokesperson, Edmund van Vuuren, said he had spoken to department officials, who had promised to deal with the matter.

He called on the province’s education MEC, Mandla Makupula, to install toilets at the school immediately and claimed the service provider responsible for Bulugha’s toilets withdrew after the department failed to pay it for two years.

The education department had not responded to requests for comment at the time of going to press.

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