DA accuses MEC of failing to provide correct sanitation stats

A DA investigation claims to have found that 340 000 Eastern Cape schoolchildren make do without toilets at school every day.

This figure emerged after DA shadow MEC for education Edmund van Vuuren received an answer from education MEC Mandla Makupula on the provincial school sanitation backlog.

Van Vuuren went directly to the education department to ask similar questions, and he said that the audited data from the department showed that the MEC had under reported the number of schools without proper sanitation.

Van Vuuren said the accurate number of schools without proper sanitation was 1 098, and not the 1 049 schools mentioned by Makupula in his verbal reply to the question in the provincial legislature.

Van Vuuren also learned that the schools’ sanitation backlog stood at R380-million.

“The DA will call for an urgent meeting of the legislature’s education committee,” he said.

“We want to discuss changes to the education department budget to accommodate the R380-million backlog to restore the dignity of these learners without delay.

“This is a human rights violation on an unprecedented scale.

“Some schools, like Chris Hani Public School in Lady Frere, require as many as 44 toilets for their 1 160 learners. The most affected districts are also the most disadvantaged.”

Van Vuuren said 111 schools in Lusikisiki and 215 in Mount Frere district also did not have proper sanitation. “Billions are made available to fund Eastern Cape education every year and there is no reason why these backlogs could not have been addressed by now.”

Human Rights Commission (HRC) spokesman Isaac Mangena confirmed the commission was investigating the problem.

“As the commission, it is worrying that so many children are without water and sanitation.

“It’s especially worrying for girls because this situation leaves them vulnerable because of the unsafe conditions of the bushes they are often forced to relieve themselves in,” Mangena said.

Fort Warwick Primary School principal Xoliswa Mashibini said their five pit latrines, two for girls and two for boys and the one for staff, was not enough.

Having recently moved to a new school site, Mashibini said they were baffled by the strong smell coming from the latrines.

“The smell is incredible. We only starting using them on July 15, so we don’t know what’s causing it,” a concerned Mashibini said.

Fort Warwick has a sanitation backlog totalling R120 375.

Education spokesman Loyiso Pulumani said the department was aware of all the infrastructural backlogs in the province. The figures were a result of a comprehensive audit and verification exercise the department had painstakingly undertaken in an effort to better utilise its limited resources.

“There is already a concerted effort by government through the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Development Initiative and other local provincial interventions to target water and sanitation backlogs together with the building of all new schools that we’re rolling out,” he said. —