R4.4bn needed to fix school sanitation issues: Daily Dispatch

R4.4bn needed to fix school sanitation issues: Daily Dispatch

THE Eastern Cape education department needs R4.4-billion to replace the unhealthy and unhygienic pit latrines and address general sanitary problems at schools.

More than 3 000 schools are said to have no proper sanitation. This is 60% of the schools in the province. The department plans to fix 700 of these schools over the next 10 years.

This was revealed by education MEC Mandla Makupula in his parliamentary response to a question asked by DA MPL Edmund van Vuuren.

Van Vuuren wanted to know how many schools had insufficient sanitation facilities, what was the department’s plan to rectify this, how many pupils experienced health issues due to improper sanitation and the amount budgeted to fix this sanitation problem.

Makupula said out of the 5 460 schools in the province, 3 088 have insufficient sanitation.

The MEC acknowledged that the backlog was huge and would not be met by the annual infrastructure budget of R1.5-billion that the department received from Treasury.

“The sanitation budget includes projects where the main focus was not purely sanitation but includes water and other related works.

“The cost to eradicate sanitation backlogs must be read against the appropriated annual infrastructure budget of approximately R1.5-billion for all types of infrastructure,” said the MEC.

According to the MEC a number of pupils from various schools have experienced health issues due to improper sanitation, but he said the exact number was still unknown as the figures were still being collated.

Makupula said the department has planned and prioritised 7 07 of these schools in its 10-year infrastructure plan.

“The timeframe for eradication of insufficient sanitation facilities was set for November 2020. However, the department could not comply due to the scale of the challenge and the linkages with rationalism programme, delays in the implementation of the accelerated school infrastructure delivery initiative (Asidi) programme and ultimately the challenge posed by reductions in the infrastructure budget,” he said.

The Eastern Cape had the biggest budget cut when compared to other provinces, when it was allocated R325-million less from the previous financial year.

This could be attributed to the education department failing to spend R500 000 of its infrastructure grant, which was taken back by national Treasury.

Van Vuuren said the death of five-year-old Lumka Mkhethwa earlier this year at Luna Primary school in Mbizana could have been prevented had the department prioritised the dire need for sufficient sanitation for schools after the death of Michael Komape, 5, in Limpopo in 2014. — By ARETHA LINDEN, arethal@dispatch.co.za