Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says the department needs R10-billion to completely eradicate pit latrines in schools. Motshekga says she will provide President Cyril Ramaphosa with a costed plan on sanitation in schools in less than three months.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has requested an audit of the sanitation situation in schools from the minister, following the death of 5-year-old Lumka Mtekwa, who fell into a pit latrine at an Eastern Cape primary school last week.

Motshekga says the challenge is not with the figures which she says are being updated on a quarterly basis but the budget. She says the R7-billion annual budget for infrastructure is not nearly enough to eradicate pit latrines in South African schools.

“Just to get water to schools to pay rent and repair other things, we have R1 billion just to deal with one aspect to deal with pit latrines in one province. There was an estimation of R3 billion for Limpopo, it has a backlog of 2500 just in one province. Not less than R10 billion we need just for pit latrines .”

Five-year-old Lumka’s death is reminiscent to that of another 5-year-old learner, Michael Komape. He also died after falling into a pit latrine at a school in Limpopo four years ago.  The Basic Education Department is yet to reach a settlement in Komape’s case.  Unlike Komape’s school, Lumka’s had flushing toilets and this has presented another issue for the department.

“At schools provided with sanitation but pit toilets have not been demolished here would have been sanitation, about 24 toilets provided to the school but they didn’t demolish pit toilets so we also thought we must audit schools with pit latrines despite sanitation provided in schools,” said Motshekga.

Deputy Minister of Education Enver Surty says the department has made strides in putting infrastructure in schools albeit with an inadequate budget. Surty was reacting to accusations that the department has been reactive on the issue of sanitation in schools.

“Not long ago there were 100 schools without sanitation. We’ve almost eliminated that. Not long ago there were 100 schools without electricity, we have almost eliminated that. Not long before this incident we had met with implementing agents to demand what has been happening.”

Motshekga says Lumka’s case is currently being handled by the police. She says the department might now need to halt the projects they are currently undertaking to focus on sanitation if that is what a review requires.

The department has through its ASIDI programme built dozens of schools around the country, but the pace of work has been overwhelmed by the needs on the ground.

Watch related videos below: