President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday launched the government’s plans to improve sanitation in rural schools, and eradicate the pit latrine system in the country.

The programme, led by the Basic Education Department, follows the deaths of two young children who drowned in school pit latrines. Michael Komape of Limpopo died in 2014, and Lumka Mkhethwa from the Eastern Cape, early in 2018. Their deaths caused an outcry in the country.

About four-thousand schools across the country still use the pit toilets, and government now hopes to eradicate these.

“The utterly tragic and devastating deaths of children so young and so innocent reminds us of the human consequences of service delivery, service delivery and also service delivery that is denied to our people,” says Ramaphosa.

He called on business to join hands with government to realise a pit latrine-free society by 2030.

“Global leaders have agreed that by 2030, we must have achieved access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all. We are aware of the importance of adequate sanitation and preventing the diseases and economic social benefits. South Africa is committed to attaining the target of sanitation.”

However, his address was interrupted by some members of the lobby group, Equal Education.

The protest was against the Basic Education Department’s decision to appeal against a High Court ruling which ordered government to provide public school infrastructure.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says: “It is just an honest response to say what you say should happen is not possible, we can say we would do, but it won’t be possible to do it.”

UNICEF and the Nelson Mandela Foundation are part of business and NGOs who are collaborating with government to eradicate the pit toilet system.

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