Pit toilets could be eradicated within 2 years 'if all goes well' - Motshekga

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga (Tebogo Letsie/City Press)
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga (Tebogo Letsie/City Press)

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga is confident that, if all goes according to plan, pit toilets can be eradicated within two years.

Announcing the findings of the 2017 School Monitoring Survey in Tshwane on Monday, Motshekga said the Basic Education Department has managed to break through the glass ceiling with regard to sanitation.

"As you know, the president has made money available to eradicate pit latrines within three years," Motshekga said.

"Since we launched the Sanitation Appropriate for Education (SAFE) [initiative] in August last year, some 234 projects out of 3 998 have reached practical completion."

READ: Pit toilet deaths a reminder of delayed service delivery – Ramaphosa

"This value was only marginally improved from 2011.

"Outside of the SAFE initiative, a further 787 provincial sanitation projects are at practical and final completion in the 2018/19 financial year. Overall, we have delivered decent sanitation to over 10 621 schools since 2000," Motshekga said.

76% of schools have running water

The minister said she was confident that they can eradicate pit latrines within two years "if all goes well".

She added that with budget commitments, support from the Department of Environmental Affairs, the Department of Water and Sanitation, as well as private role players, adequate sanitation at all schools will become a reality before 2022.

According to the survey, which Motshekga said was worrying, only 76% of schools had running water and 80% had adequately functioning sanitation.

Government not moving fast enough

In August last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa conceded that not enough had been done to rid schools of pit toilets and government was not moving fast enough, he said.

Ramaphosa said at the time that there were still 3 998 schools across the country that had only pit toilets. According to an audit done by the basic education department, a further 3 040 schools did not have proper sanitation and pit toilets were not demolished.

The provinces worst affected are KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo.

Ramaphosa added that government heard the pleas from South Africans after two children had fallen into pit latrines and drowned in recent years.

READ: Another child drowns in a pit toilet

"The utterly tragic and devastating deaths of children so young and so innocent remind us of the human consequences of service delivery delayed," said Ramaphosa.

"They remind us that we must focus all our attention not on what we have achieved, but on what we haven't."

Five-year-old Lumka Mketwa drowned after she fell into a pit latrine at Luna Junior Primary School in the Eastern Cape in 2018. In 2014, Michael Komape, also five years old, drowned in a pit toilet at Mahlodumela Primary School in Limpopo.

Ramaphosa said although significant progress in addressing the backlog had been made, more work was needed.

"In the public school system, since the advent of democracy, over 11 000 schools have been provided with flush toilets linked either to a municipal connection or a septic tank."

Teacher absenteeism still concerning

Motshekga also noted with concern that the survey found no discernible change in the rate of teacher absence since 2011.

"The survey recorded an increase in the national aggregate absence (from 8% to 10%) on an average day, Motshekga said.

"This is deeply troubling. We must do more to support our teachers. There's a need to drill deeper into the statistics to understand this leave of absence phenomenon."

Good news, however, is that at a national level, learners' access to libraries increased significantly from 45% in 2011 to 62% in 2017, the survey showed.

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