More than R300m spent in last 3 years to eradicate pit toilets at schools

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Unsafe and undignified toilets at a high school in Giyani, Limpopo.
Unsafe and undignified toilets at a high school in Giyani, Limpopo.
  • The basic education department says roughly R312 million has already been spent on the Sanitation Appropriate for Education (SAFE) initiative.
  • The initiative aims to eradicate pit toilets in schools and was launched in August 2018. 
  • The Eastern Cape has the most schools with pit toilets, followed by KwaZulu-Natal.

The Department of Basic Education says more than R300 million has been spent in the last three years to eradicate pit toilets at schools.

The Sanitation Appropriate for Education (SAFE) initiative, is working on eradicating pit toilets at 2 753 schools in six provinces.

Of these, only 903 have reached practical completion, which means they aren't entirely complete, but enough work has been done so that they can be used. 

READ | Principal suspended for forcing pupil into pit toilet to search for missing cellphone

As of Tuesday, R312 439 764 had been spent on the SAFE initiative, which launched in August 2018, the department said.

The SAFE programme is funded from the School Infrastructure Backlog Grant. The total grant budget for 2021/22 is R2 283 564 000, and about 50% of it is allocated to the SAFE programme. 

The Eastern Cape has the most schools with pit toilets. Of the 1 098 schools, only 178 projects have progressed to practical completion. The province is followed by KwaZulu-Natal, which has 974 schools with pit toilets, of which 379 have progressed to practical completion.

'Hit our target'

The department said that since March 2021, Mathanzima Mweli, the director-general of the Department of Basic Education, visited more than 500 construction sites to accelerate the delivery of the infrastructure. 

"The SAFE initiative is a flagship programme and I have resolved that I will carry out the monitoring function until the last school has a proper toilet. The monitoring has pushed our performance up, and we are sure to hit our target even before the end of the current financial year," Mweli said. 

This week Mweli visited schools in Limpopo. He holds weekly update meetings with the chief executive officers of the implementing agents for the SAFE initiative. 

READ | Life sentence for man who murdered estranged wife, dumped her body in a pit toilet

The department also regularly reports to the Presidency on strides made.

Mweli said:

We have improved the standard of reporting, and the progress is satisfactory. Underperforming implementing agents have been warned that there will be consequences for poor delivery.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has since February this year, put in place weekly accountability sessions with the director-general and the infrastructure branch of her department. 

"I would like to thank all of those businesses and individuals who have agreed to partner with the Department of Basic Education to eradicate pit latrines in our schools and restore the dignity of our children. The support has been truly incredible," Motshekga said. 

The department said it was confident it would achieve the annual performance plan targets and that the budget allocated would be used.

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