Concerns Raised Over Plans To Eradicate School Pit Toilets



In 2021, Judge Muller from the High Court of South Africa (Polokwane Division) described the persistence of pit toilets at schools as a national emergency. While new plans are in place to address issues around the use of pit toilets, civil society believes more work must be done.




The Limpopo Department of Education (LDOE) has revealed its improved plans to eradicate the use of pit latrines and other unsafe school sanitation. These plans come after the high court ordered the LDOE to take ‘urgent and effective steps' to address the persistence of pit toilets and unsafe sanitation infrastructure at schools in the province.

The LDOE plans to eradicate pit latrines that are being used in schools by the end of 2022 and also plans to demolish unused pit latrines by the end of this year.

The department was also ordered to draft a new plan listing the schools and their sanitation infrastructure status and needs, the budget for the delivery of infrastructure at these schools, revised timelines for implementation and suitable interim solutions, among other requirements.

While public interest law centre SECTION27 welcomes the improved details provided by the LDOE, they believe more work needs to be done to prevent further injury and death due to unsafe school sanitation infrastructure.

SECTION27 Senior Attorney Demichelle Petherbridge adds the data provided by the department contains inconsistencies and the group will challenge the way some aspects of the data was verified.

The group says that there may be potential inaccuracies with the plan, with some 78 schools relying solely on pit toilets not listed in plans for schools with only pit toilets. The data about the numbers of schools with pit toilets in use alongside other forms of sanitation also appears to be inaccurate according to SECTION27

“We're encouraged by these kinds of targets but this has been preceded by a long string of missed deadlines and we know that accountability and transparency are going to be key here in making sure that this is being implemented and this is also a huge improvement compared to its previous plans and exactly why we went to court” explained Petherbridge.

SECTION27 are concerned about the ability of the LDOE to deliver on its plan of action. This is because the 2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework's provincial equitable share allocated to Limpopo declines in real terms in each year for the next three years. This will have an impact on provinces’ education department to deliver services.

Limpopo Provincial Budget

“In terms of budgeting, a very big issue there with figures, while money does seem to be allocated we're not convinced that the department can realistically expect to receive that funding. Having said this though I have to note that this is a huge improvement from the previous plans so we do need to recognise that the department has made considerable effort to give us better plans” concluded Petherbridge.





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