"Toilets are scary places. In one school I saw children going to a hole to help themselves. The situation is horrible in Limpopo. I just want to cry, my kids are experiencing the same situation," said Solly Milambo.
Milambo highlighted the sanitation problem in the Northern Province at a news conference held by civil society lobby group Section27 in Johannesburg.
He said pupils were forced to go to the bush rather than endangering their health by using dilapidated and overflowing pit toilets at schools.
No running water
Schools did not have money to hire contractors to remove waste from overflowing toilets, he said. "Flush toilets are built in rural areas where there is no running water." He said that much more needed to be done to provide better sanitation for pupils.
Section27 said it would rather work with the basic education department to address unsafe and unhygienic toilets in Limpopo schools, than taking legal action to address backlogs.
"We want to avoid any legal action as we share a vision with the department to rid the education system of unacceptable conditions," said Section27 attorney Nikki Stein.
"We want to work together but the department needs to look at its responsiveness when it comes to complaints."
A meeting between Section27 and the department was held on Wednesday to discuss concerns raised on infrastructure and sanitation in the past two years.
Concerns over unsafe and unhygienic toilets in Limpopo schools came to the fore after six-year-old Michael Komape died when he fell into a pit toilet at his school last week in Chebeng village outside Polokwane.