- The schools where two young pupils died in pit toilets had proper sanitation installed.
- The DA said that it would go to court to force the Department of Basic Education to eradicate pit toilets at schools across the country.
- About 900 schools have been left without proper sanitation.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has revealed that both the Eastern Cape schools where Langalam Viki and Lumka Mketwa died had new and proper sanitation installed. However, the pit toilets where the pupils drowned had not been destroyed.
Three-year-old Langalam drowned in a pit toilet at Glen Grey Primary School earlier this month, while the body of 5-year-old Lumka was found lying in a pit toilet at Luna Primary School in 2018.
Speaking on Sunday morning during a media briefing, Motshekga said that when tragedies like these occurred, the government must accelerate providing infrastructure, especially in areas where it was needed, to ensure pupils were safe in schools.
She added that maybe the question was why those toilets were not demolished.
"But the fact of the matter is that there were new toilets at the school where Lumka died," the minister said, and added that this was also the case for Langalam.
"The fact of the matter is we have provided new South African national standard approved infrastructure and we have been explaining this. This means that the school had new toilets. She was not found in the pit latrine, she was found behind [the pit toilet]."
The department said it did not want to absolve the government from responsibility, because it owed justice to Langalam, Lumka and the nation.
Last week, the Democratic Alliance said it would go to court to force the Department of Basic Education to eradicate pit toilets at schools across the country.
Addressing developments that the department had achieved, Motshekga said it had launched a safe programme, to educate children about sanitation.
READ | DA to launch court action to force basic education dept to eradicate 'deadly' pit toilets in SA
"When we started with the safe programme, we had identified 3 398 schools, which are schools that were identified by provinces because infrastructure is a provincial competency. But, [the] national [department] felt that it should intervene to assist the provinces."
The department said it had provided 2 478 schools with infrastructure to date, leaving close to 900 schools without proper sanitation.
"We want to say to the nation, we may not be good enough, but a lot has been done and continues to be done on a daily basis," added Motshekga.
Demichelle Petherbridge, senior attorney at Section27, which has been advocating for the eradication of pit toilets, said that in Limpopo alone there were hundreds of schools with pit toilets that were not in use, but had not been destroyed.
Petherbridge acknowledged that the government had been taking steps to provide proper toilets to schools, but warned there were dangers when pit toilets were not destroyed, and called on the department to address this.
South African Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu) spokesperson, Nomusa Cembi told News24 that the Department of Public Works should have destroyed the pit toilets as soon as the new toilets were installed.