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Monday, December 6, 2021

Section 27, Equal Education Say DBE Has No ‘Coherent’ Plan To Eradicate Pit Toilets in Schools

SECTION 27 and Equal Education says the Department of Basic Education has not presented a coherent plan before the court for the eradication of pit toilets and inadequate sanitation in Limpopo and other rural provinces.

This is contained in the organisations’ heads of arguments presented before the high court in Limpopo on Friday.

“Instead of providing a sanitation plan to the Court, the defendants have described several infrastructure programmes, with no indication as to how these programmes relate to one another, how these programmes will advance the right of learners to safe and adequate sanitation and how compliance with these plans may be monitored,” the organisations said in court papers.

“The undisputed evidence before this Court is that there have been at least three other learners nationally who have lost their lives as a direct consequence of the dilapidated toilets at their schools.

Another child has been severely injured and traumatised after a similar fall into a pit toilet. The plaintiffs rely on this evidence
to illustrate that the tragedy that befell Michael Komape and his family, as well as these four other learners and their families, may well recur in the near future. The defendants have simply ignored these concerns.”

Section 27 and EE are petitioning for the Limpopo Department of Education to draft a new plan to fix school toilets, one that is “reasonable” and meets the requirements of the structural order.

The plan should also outline how the department will address the urgent school sanitation problems in the province.

They are also asking the court appoint a special master – an independent person who is normally appointed by a judge to assist the court in making sure the court order is implemented.

“In this case, we want a Special Master to oversee the implementation of the new plan that we want the DBE and the LDoE to produce. A Special Master enhances the court’s supervision by bringing additional resources and specialised skills to the case,” the organisations said.

“We are proposing that the court consider appointing a Special Master – an independent person who is appointed by and reports to the court, who is normally appointed by a judge to assist the court by making sure that what the court orders is actually implemented.”

“We want a Special Master to oversee the implementation of the new plan that we want the DBE and the LDoE to produce. A Special Master enhances the court’s supervision by bringing additional resources and specialised skills to the case.”

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says she is confident that her department will eradicate the remaining 3 898 pit latrines in the country’s schools “within the next four years”.

She said together with Provincial Education Departments, DBE has made great strides in efforts to replace pit latrines with appropriate sanitation
facilities for schools in the country through the Sanitation Appropriate for Education (SAFE) Initiative launched in August 2018 to accelerate the provision of sanitation facilities in the identified schools.

“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,” said Motshekga

Mathanzima Mweli, the Director-General of the Department of Basic Education, has visited more than 500 construction sites since March 2021 to accelerate the delivery of the much-needed infrastructure.

Mweli was in Limpopo last week where he has visited sites in the Vhembe and Sekhukhune areas.

The monitoring function has assisted the Department to unblock challenges and resolve issues that delayed the building process.

“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,” he said.

 
The Director-General holds weekly update meetings with the chief executive officers of the implementing agents.

The department reports regularly to the Presidency on the work done to replace pit toilets with proper facilities and will continue to do so until the pit latrines have been eradicated in all the schools.

“We have improved the standard of reporting and the progress is satisfactory. Under-performing implementing agents have been warned that there will be consequences for poor delivery,” said Mweli.

Inside Education

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