Limpopo’s dismal performance in last year’s matric exams has been compounded by a shortage of water and sanitation facilities in most of the province’s schools, mayor of the Maruleng municipality Dipuo Thobejane heard yesterday.
Limpopo came last with a 69.4% pass rate last year, after the normally nonperforming Eastern Cape.
Thobejane was at a back-to-school campaign, when school principals from Maruleng told her of the problems pupils face.
These include missing one or two periods a day to walk to nearby bushes to relieve themselves or to fetch drinking water from fountains and rivers. The principals believe a lack of sanitation and water in rural schools contributed immensely to the province’s high failure rate.
Michael Ramahlape Mothiba is principal for Molomahlapi secondary in Butswana village near Hoedspruit, which produced an 84.4% pass rate to become the best-performing school in the area last year. He called on Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to prioritise water and sanitation provision.
“Some of the bushes are 2km to 3km away from school”, he said. “When nature calls, they leave the teacher in the middle of a lesson to respond to the call.
“That in itself is violation of a child’s right to education.
“We want drinkable water and toilets in our schoolyards and then matric performance will improve,” Mothiba said.
Naphtally Moagi, principal for Makgwahleng secondary in Belville village, said overcrowding, parental ignorance, shortage of classrooms and teachers and proper roads leading to schools further contributed to the problem. A parent at the school, Jane Lebepe, pointed to a lack of discipline.
“Drugs and teenage pregnancy were also some of the contributing factors of poor performance,” she told the mayor. “In some of the schools children smoke dagga and other types of drugs openly without fear.
“Those are the children who are bullies, fight or stab teachers, or rape other pupils on the school’s premises. That highlights a lack of discipline in our schools”.
In Limpopo, the story of Michael Komape still leaves a bitter taste. Komape fell and drowned in a dilapidated pit toilet at Mahlodumela primary school in 2014.
Water and Sanitation Minister Gugile Nkwinti announced in May last year that his department had set aside a budget to address the shortage of water and sanitation in all nine provinces. Spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said the department had set aside R1.4 billion for sanitation provision.
He said the majority of toilets would be built in deep rural provinces, such as Limpopo.