Pupils and teachers in 515 schools in Limpopo still use pit toilets in order to respond to the call of nature – 27 years after the advent of democracy.
Limpopo is a rural province and the majority of these schools are in far-flung, mostly poor villages, which are categorised as Quintile 1 to 3 schools.
A fortnight ago, the High Court in Polokwane compelled Limpopo basic education MEC Polly Boshielo to eradicate all pit toilets in the districts of Waterberg, Capricorn, Sekhukhune, Vhembe and Mopani.
This after the Limpopo department of education and the national department of basic education failed to comply with a 2018 court order that directed them to supply each school with safe and dignified toilets; conduct a comprehensive audit of sanitation and provide a comprehensive plan for the installation of new toilets.
In 2019 during her budget vote speech, Boshielo promised there would be no talk about pit toilets in 2020. But, to date, the situation remains unchanged.
Boshielo told The Citizen her department was now ready to deliver on her promises. She said her department would build the first 200 and the national department has undertaken to build toilets at the remaining 315 schools.
“I wanted to start demolishing and building new toilets ages ago. But as soon as I wanted to start, Covid happened,” she said.
“This year again when we thought the infection rate would go down, the third wave emerged. But I’m now willing and ready to get the project off the ground and make sure all schools have good sanitation and our children and teachers walk with dignity because sanitation is dignity.”
But the Democratic Alliance (DA) in Limpopo does not buy the explanation. DA member of the provincial legislature Risham Maharaj said “according to documents provided by the department, the construction of new toilets and the demolishing of old toilets would cost the department not less than R20 billion”.
He said Boshielo has the responsibility to prioritise and ensure all schools had the sufficient number of proper sanitation facilities in line with the norms and standards regulations.