Lobby group, Equal Education, has reiterated its view that the Department of Basic Education has not put in sufficient efforts to speed up the eradication of pit latrines at schools.

The group says the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need for safe sanitation at learning institutions.

The Polokwane High Court recently reserved judgment, after advocacy group Section 27 and Equal Education took the government to court in an effort to get them to accelerate the complete eradication of pit toilets at school.

Parliamentary researcher for Equal Education Jane Borman says, “The reason that we are going back to court is because the progress has not been sufficient. The plans that were put forward by the Department of Basic Education and the provincial education departments aimed to eradicate pit latrines by 2030.”

“As COVID-19 has shown us, insufficient and unsafe sanitation undermines that rights [of learners), so we need to make sure that plans are sufficient and the issue gets dealt with as quickly as possible,” added Borman.

Limpopo province grapples with the eradication of pit latrines in schools:

Meanwhile, parents of learners at Vhusendeka Secondary at Nzhelelele in Limpopo have called on the department to accelerate its plans to eradicate pit toilets.

Learners and educators at the school use pit toilets and parents are concerned about the safety of learners at the schools.

A ruling by the High Court could likely compel the department to bring forward its deadline to eradicate pit toilets.

School Governing Body (SGB) member Naledzani Mugali says they need clean and safe toilets for learners.

Mugali says, “I am not happy about this situation of the pit toilets, we like the government to change the toilet to build us a modern toilet like this, flushing toilets because it is difficult now because they are not coming to clean this pit toilet and it is old now. This situation is bad.”

The state of sanitation in SA rural schools in graphics:

However, the Department of Education maintains that ventilated improved pit latrines that have been installed at schools in the province are an acceptable form of sanitation.

Northern Cape Education MEC Zolile Monakali says they are unable to provide flushing toilets at schools in areas with water challenges such as Tsoe.

He says the province has managed to eradicate pit toilets and replace them with Ventilated Improved Pit Latrines, Enviro Loos and Flushing Toilets.

Monakali says, “For flush toilets, you need a lot of water and with those areas like Heuningvlei, we have a challenge of water so the alternative that we are using are the VIPs and the VIPs are acceptable in terms of the norms and standards of the department.”

“But in instances where we find that the infrastructure of toilets has been demolished and the school does not have resources, our infrastructure unit gets in to assist to make sure that we get the structure up to a standard where it is acceptable and can be used by learners,” added Monakali.