Pit toilets a threat to E Cape learners

In March 2018 Lumka Mkhethwa died after falling into a pit toilet
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Pit latrines continue to pose a threat to learners across the Eastern Cape schools.

Two learners at Hillbrow Combined School in Lusikiski fell into the pit latrines and nearly drowned.

The school now hopes that change is coming as the Department of Basic Education has confirmed that President Cyril Ramaphosa will in two weeks’ time announce a plan to eradicate pit toilets at schools.

Hillbrow Combined School is just a two minutes’ drive from the small town of Lusikisiki, but it is far worse than some of the rural mud schools in the province.

Almost all classrooms in the school have broken windows, while some are without doors.

Even the staffrooms are in a bad state.

Animals from nearby townships have turned it into a grazing land.

The pit latrines that almost claimed the lives of two learners are in a far worse condition. Grade 12 learner, 18-year-old Zonke Kwedini is still shocked following her ordeal.

“We went to the toilets in the morning before we sat for the exam. Our toilets are usually blown away when it’s windy. So, the seat had fallen and we could see the inside of the toilet through the hole. I don’t know what happened, but I fell inside the toilet. I could feel from my feet that it is deep in there. The other learners helped by pulling me out. Some laughed at me and I was even reluctant to come to school the next day. Even now, the toilet seats have been blown away by the wind and we can see inside.”

Kwedini wants action to be taken as soon as possible before another learner becomes the next victim.

“I wish the principal could fix this problem because I’m not the first learner to fall into the toilet. Learners from junior also use the same toilets we use. They might not be so lucky like I was. It’s very deep inside there and there’s water too.”

The Eastern Cape Department of Education says they plan to refurbish the school.

“We are in the process of building a new school, but after seeing the current situation of the school, we opted to provide, as a temporary measure, prefabs knowing that these prefabs, as soon as we are done with the construction of the new school, we’ll remove them. The phase wherein we’re at now, with the new school, we are at the design phase. As soon as we are done with the design phase, then the site-development plan will be handed over to public works to approve it and then we move with the construction.”

In March, the country was shocked by the death of 5-year-old Lumka Mkhethwa, who drowned in a pit latrine at Luna School outside Mbizana. The presidency then called on Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to conduct an audit of all learning facilities with unsafe structures, especially unsafe ablution facilities and present the president with a plan to rectify the challenge.

The audit has been completed and handed over to President Ramaphosa, who is expected to announce the schools with the biggest infrastructure needs on the 14 August. Click below for more on the story: