People protested in 2017 outside Polokwane High Court to support the Komape family after their five-year-old son drowned in a pit latrine. (File photo: Ciaran Ryan)
Equal Education says there were 472 schools with pit latrines in 2019, and that figure rose to 515 in 2020.
First published by GroundUp.
Equal Education (EE) has called it “scandalous” that the Limpopo Education Department continues to neglect its responsibilities to eradicate pit latrines in schools. This comes after a long and arduous litigation against the department. The department has been castigated by the courts.
EE now wants the Limpopo District Court to appoint a “special master” to oversee the urgent implementation of a plan to ensure that learners have access to a safe and dignified toilet.
EE reported to the court what he said was a dismal response by education officials to a structural ban granted in 2018. The court had asked the government to report on progress in deploying adequate sanitation; conduct a comprehensive sanitation needs audit, detailing the names and locations of all schools with dry toilets in the province; and provide a complete plan for the installation of new toilets.
In 2014, five-year-old Michael Komape drowned in a pit latrine on the second day of his R class when a dilapidated structure collapsed. Komape’s family received 1.4 million rand in damages. Earlier this year, SECTION27, which led the litigation, said: “We demand that education authorities develop a plan for the eradication of pit latrines that is coherent and meets their obligations to immediately realize the child’s right to education. based.
EE, as amicus curiae (friend of the court), agreed. In a written pitch, EE says the data suggests there are now more schools, not fewer, with pit latrines: 472 in 2019 and 515 in 2020.
EE says the court order also applies to schools with an unsafe and insufficient number of toilets. “They [the department] claim that the order does not extend to schools without pit latrines, even though these schools have an unsafe and / or insufficient number of student toilets. They say they are not required to demolish or seal off pit latrines that are not in use. We say they are wrong. The nature of the ordinance was designed to, in essence, ensure that every school in the province has adequate and safe toilets. “
The ministry had estimated the cost of replacing the pit latrines with Enviro Loos at around 1.6 billion rand and that it would take 14 years, from 2018 to 2031.
EE says this cost needs to be questioned as it appeared to be “unwarranted and recklessly inflated”, and that “the plan does not seem to recognize the urgency with which we must rectify the deep and dangerous infrastructural inequalities in our country”.
In their written argument, the Minister of Basic Education and the MEC of Limpopo Education state that “the plan is not a perfect solution but it offers a practical solution. It should be obvious that we are doing our best and that there has been substantial respect for the structural order. “
They say they have “limited resources” and the appointment of a special master would be financially unsustainable and divert money from the eradication program.
Sanitation provision was also a “moving target” because school enrollment was fluid.
If, however, the court found that the plan was lacking, an appropriate order would be to order them to provide semi-annual progress reports, they argued.
The date for the hearing of the case in court has not yet been set. DM
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This notice was published: 2021-06-04 11:45:34