SAHRC calls for the eradication of pit toilets in schools following the death of a 6-year old Limpopo pupil
22 January 2014
Attention: Editors and Reporters
The South African Human Rights Commission has learnt with great shock and disappointment of the death of a six-year-old boy who fell into a pit toilet at Mahlodumela Primary School in Chebeng, Moletji outside Polokwane.
It is believed the young Grade 0 pupil, Michael Komape, was discovered in a pit toilet near his classroom several hours after he disappeared.
The Commission visited the school on Wednesday and spoke to the teachers and education department officials.
The Commission has decided to launch an own initiative investigation around this matter and the overall lack of sanitation in many other schools across the province.
The Commission is aware that there are many other schools in the province that still use pit toilets which pose a threat to the learners.
The Commission has in the past raised many concerns with government regarding the state of sanitation, in particular around schools still using pit toilets, especially in the rural areas across the country.
The Commission conducted national hearings around lack of water and sanitation in 2013, against the background of serious service delivery breakdown in several parts of the country and a perceived lack of government accountability.
It is concerning that despite commitments during the hearings by the government, and in particular, the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation in The Presidency to develop a proactive strategy to effectively deal with the sanitation and water backlog throughout the country, we still have children dying because of insufficient sanitation infrastructure.
Census 2011 showed that while access to water and sanitation is improving in the country, this development is not enjoyed by all provinces and districts, particularly rural areas. The result is that millions of SA's poorest citizens remain without access to proper adequate sanitation and clean drinking water.
According to the report entitled The Quality of Sanitation in South Africa presented to Parliament in 2012, there are 1.4 million households, or about 11% of the population, who have no sanitation facilities or services. The same report say government will need R44.5bn to resolve the sanitation crisis.
The Commission calls on the government to ensure funds are made available to deal with sanitation problem. And for the Department of Basic Education to move with necessary speed to ensure that all pit toilets in schools are eradicated.
We are encouraged by the Department’s commitment, as contained in its document of Regulations Relating To Minimum Uniform Norms And Standards For Public School Infrastructure, published in November 2013, that “all schools that do not have access to any form of power supply, water supply or sanitation must be prioritised and provided with the above within a period of three years from the date of publication of the regulations.”
The Commission, however, would like to call on the Department to devise temporary sanitation measures that will be used by the pupils while the long-term plans contained in the Regulations are rolled out.
We support the investigation by the Department following this latest incident and hope that it will work to ensure that officials found guilty of negligence are brought to book.
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Issued by the South African Human Rights Commission
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