It’s true that the United Nations Development Programme estimated that globally, there are more than 2.4 billion people who did not have access to basic sanitation like toilets and latrines. However, the county of South Africa is not excluded from this pickle of sanitation, most especially in his schools, as she is found wanting in delivering best of sanitation to its schools. Sometimes in 2018, President Cyril Ramaphosa instructed Minister of Education Angie Motshekga to conduct a full audit of school facilities with unsafe structures. This was after the fatal incident in which five-year-old Viwe Jali drowned in a pit toilet at her Eastern Cape school. Sadly, the incident was not the first.
After the death of five-year-old Michael Komape in 2014, the Water Research Commission investigated the issue of school sanitation, particularly in rural parts of the country. The president’s instruction for the audit is definitely a necessary one. Nonetheless, there are many other issues to school sanitation. Reports found conditions that no human being, especially school pupils should be exposed to, conditions that infringed on basic human rights.
Pictures taken during the investigation showed how filthy some toilets were, which was also observed by the pupils questioned: 71% of them found the toilets smelly, 63% found them dirty and 41% of them expressed fear of being subjected to bullying in the toilets. These appalling conditions were linked to failed management. In some schools, decent toilets were reserved for the teachers. The humiliating conditions discovered after the tragic deaths of Michael Komape and Viwe Jali, exposing health and safety risks, are faced by children in the rural parts of a free and democratic South Africa on a daily basis.
The structures in some of these schools date back to the apartheid era when communities had to build their own schools out of the mud. Years later, some of these mud schools still exist, even though an entire section of the Constitution is dedicated to children’s rights. Many girls find themselves in the predicament of having to miss school when they are menstruating. Poor facilities mean these girls are unable to change their sanitary towels in private. In fact, many can’t even afford pricey sanitary products.
As this problem are evident in the eyes of the South African terrain, it’s believed that the government has a clear obligation, in terms of the right to basic education, to provide safe and decent school sanitation, immediately, to all learners. A failure to do so is not only an infringement of the right to basic education, but also implicates learners’ rights to an environment that is not harmful to health or well-being, the right to equality, the right to dignity, and the right to have a child’s best interests treated as paramount.
EFFORT TAKEN BY SOUTH AFRICA GOVERNMENT ON SCHOOL SANITATION
The South African state also has the constitutional obligation to ensure public administration is governed in accordance with the principles of efficient, economic and effective use of resources, as well as those of transparency, responsiveness, and accountability, set out in section 195 of the Constitution, to budget effectively in order to ensure that adequate sanitation is financially provided for and to provide school sanitation in accordance with the Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure. In terms of these Norms and Standards, sufficient numbers of safe and decent toilets must be provided, and pit toilets must be eradicated.
However, as the South Africa state in his efforts towards solving it’s sanitation problems in school, the government has attempted to implement various measures for improving school sanitation, such as introducing the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Development Initiative (ASIDI), a conditional grant aimed at replacing schools constructed from inappropriate materials (mud, planks and asbestos) and eradicating the backlog in schools without water, sanitation or electricity; introducing an Education Infrastructure Grant (EIG), a conditional grant provided to assist with (among other things) accelerating the construction, maintenance and upgrading of new and existing infrastructure in education, and enhancing the capacity to deliver infrastructure in education. In the same light, the government has partnered with the Water Research Commission and international organisations to realise a new approach to sanitation. The new toilet systems are localised, usually off-grid, potentially energy-producing and use minimal water, if any. These are not low-technology solutions. Instead, they use the benefit of the best science in the world to achieve high tech, low maintenance, value-adding solutions.
While there has been some improvement driven by some of these, there are still rooms for improvement as the government can try identifying and implementing best practice in the delivery of school infrastructure. This can be done through examining and understanding models that have worked and models that have failed to date; ensuring that it meets the minimum requirements necessary to receive additional ‘incentive funds’ that are available for school infrastructure from the National Treasury and lastly ensuring that any new public-private partnerships are based on legally sound and best-practice contractual arrangements that include effective accountability mechanisms and ultimately strengthen the ability of PEDs, together with schools, to deliver and maintain infrastructure on their own. By improving on this, the South African Sanitation problem will be solved to a believable spot.