Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says her ministry is making significant progress on school infrastructure projects across the country. She however claims that efforts were hampered by the outbreak of COVID-19 and the restrictions that accompanied it.
According to Motshekga, overcrowding and the existence of pit latrines remain major crises that must be addressed immediately. Despite the government allocating over R2 billion in 2018 to address infrastructure backlogs, primarily at rural and township schools, this remains the case.
About a thousand schools, especially in provinces such as Limpopo, KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape, are still lacking proper infrastructure. This in turn derailed efforts to eradicate pit latrines, and to provide proper sanitation infrastructure and clean running water.
Addressing the media in Pretoria, Basic Education minister, Angie Motshekga, touched on a number of challenges that are caused by implementing agents assigned to deal with infrastructure issues.
Motshekga elaborates, “It is a major problem which is delaying and disrupting our work. Our focus is supposed to be on learning and teaching. But now we have these infrastructure issues because for me school is like a home where we raise our children. So it must be proper so if they do shoddy work. We have to be monitoring them. Sometimes cancel the contracts and it is a legal process. You must go to court to get a court order to do that. So it really disturbs me a lot. It is not all of them but some of these small contractors they undermine and do not do proper work when working with government.”
Langalam Viki’s death
Motshekga has clarified that Langalam Viki’s death did not occur at her school. Viki, a four-year-old pre-schooler, was found drowned near an adult pit latrine in the Eastern Cape, earlier this month.
Her mother visited the school to inquire about her whereabouts after she failed to come home. She says the facility’s sanitation infrastructure was in proper working order.
“The school at which she died, there was new and proper sanitisation. So, she didn’t die because we did not, as a government, replace old toilets. What happened is, there were old toilets which unfortunately were not demolished, far away from the school where she drowned. Langalam was found in the tank of a senior toilet, not appropriate for her as she was found in the adult section. She was even too young to lift the manhole that covers the lid. So the manhole lid was removed. It is a very sad death for a young kid to be found at the tank of the pit latrines, at the back of the toilets,” says Motshekga.
Pit latrine eradication
The 2021 Michael Komape case also put the department under tremendous pressure. 5 years old Komape drowned in a pit toilet at his school in Limpopo. Section 27 has now launched the Michael Komape Sanitation Progress Monitor. This is to ensure the department deals effectively with the challenges of pit latrines.
The Department’s official responsible for infrastructure, Dawid van der Westhuizen says despite some progress made, there are still a number of schools with infrastructure challenges.
He adds, “All the outstanding schools the 911 are in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and KZN. In all other provinces is sorted. And even in our infrastructure building, they are all in those provinces.”
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga addresses the media
Areas of delivery
The Department’s Deputy Director General Dr Matanzima Mweli has also touched on some of the major challenges hampering progress in dealing with ailing infrastructure at various schools.
“This first area simply highlights the specific area of delivery. Inappropriate structures built by the community. This is about replacing them. Those built of mud and asbestos. Many of them are collapsing.
“Plankie Skole” in the Western Cape we have replaced many of those and we are still looking forward to doing so,” Mweli explains.
The Department has committed to conclude most of the outstanding infrastructure projects in the current financial year.