Education department provides toilets, but the wrong ones

Pupils and teachers at Dalibango Primary School in the Eastern Cape either use these broken pit latrines or nearby bushes to relieve themselves. Picture: Lubabalo Ngcukana
Pupils and teachers at Dalibango Primary School in the Eastern Cape either use these broken pit latrines or nearby bushes to relieve themselves. Picture: Lubabalo Ngcukana

The Eastern Cape education department has provided 11 temporary toilets to a school where a five-year-old girl almost drowned in human waste in a dilapidated pit latrine.

But they’re the wrong toilets.

This comes after City Press exposed the state of the toilets that almost claimed the life of a Grade R pupil at Dalibango Primary.

School principal Lulama Matsiliza said the toilets that were sent to the school last Friday don’t address the problem.

She says the little children, including the child who almost drowned, cannot use them because they are too high.

“It’s only the older pupils who are able to use those toilets. We still need proper toilets, especially those that are designed for the young ones,” she said.

“What this simply means is that nothing has changed. Our young ones are still without proper toilets that are safe for them to use.”

Matsiliza said she still had no clear indication from the department when proper toilets would be built.

In November last year, City Press reported that Dalibango Primary, 35km south of Butterworth, had no proper toilets, and pupils and teachers shared dilapidated pit latrines.

Read: Near death in a school pit toilet

Built in 1945, the school has not received any infrastructural support from the Eastern Cape education department.

Young pupils are forced to use the toilets, which are completely open to the elements, as their classmates look on.

Others, especially the younger pupils, use the bush.

A squabble with a friend over a toilet seat ended with the five-year-old child, whose name is known to City Press, falling into an open hole.

She was saved from drowning by an old desk frame that was stuck inside the toilet.

This happened two months after five-year-old Grade R pupil Lumka Mkhethwa drowned in a dilapidated pit latrine at Luna Junior Secondary School in Mbizana. Michael Komape, also five, drowned in a pit toilet at Mahlodumela Primary School, outside Polokwane in Limpopo, five years ago.

Two months ago, provincial education spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima said the department needed R2.591 billion to eradicate inadequate toilets in 1 598 schools across the province.

He said the department knew the school had no proper toilets, but said it was “identified for rationalisation through a merger with nearby Kaltom Primary School”.

“The infrastructure upgrades will be done on the receiving school. The department is in the process of engaging with the school community on the merger process,” Mtima said.

But when contacted last week, Matsiliza said the school had not been merged and had reopened for this academic year.

Matsiliza said apart from the temporary toilets, the school remained in a poor state, with collapsing and cracked walls, broken windows, as well as leaking roofs.

“There was never any mention of the school closing down or being merged with another, to the school community. We have always had more than the required number of pupils in the school. This year, we already have more than 170 pupils registered,” she said.

“We don’t know where this thing is coming from. What we want is for government to fix the school and build us proper toilets, and provide us with all the necessary instruments for a conducive teaching and learning environment.”

Mtima said a primary school needed to have at least 135 pupils. He did not respond to questions about Dalibango Primary on Thursday as promised.

Provincial education superintendent-general Themba Kojana could not provide answers about whether Dalibango Primary would be closed, but said government had given the department some money to address infrastructure problems, including proper sanitation.

“President Cyril Ramaphosa has worked hard to mobilise communities and businesses, to say lets come and pledge. Government is also able to give additional funds, to say let this be an issue of addressing dignity,” he said.

“So we are busy putting plans in order to start initiating that particular initiative. It will not be possible for us to address everything at once, but we are really determined to address the issue of sanitation and infrastructure.”

In August last year, Ramaphosa launched the Sanitation Appropriate for Education initiative in Pretoria, which aims to ensure that every school in the country has proper, age-appropriate toilets.

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