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Caretaker Mntundini Saphepha went to use the pit toilet at
Kalalo Junior Secondary School in Elliotdale, Eastern Cape.The floor collapsed and he fell into a pool of mud and human
waste, GroundUp reported.Saphepha told his story in an affidavit to the Eastern Cape
High Court in Bhisho during a hearing on norms and standards for school infrastructure
in July this year.”I fell into a pool of mud and human waste up to my
chest. It was so disgusting and there was even sanitary pads floating in the
waste. I was drowning.”It took the pupil 25 minutes to free himself from the pit.”I took off all my clothes and I poured water all over
myself. I quickly called home and asked someone to bring me some clothes to
change into.”He called the school clerk who took a long pole to measure
the depth of the pit.”It was about 2m deep.””I was scared to death when it was happening. I was in
there for so long. I am so embarrassed by the whole thing.”I didn’t eat the whole day and half of the next day. I
was so disgusted as I thought I might have digested some of the pool of mud and
waste. I am now always anxious and nervous every time I have to use the
bathroom.”New toiletsSaphepha said district officials had visited the school on
September 7, 2015, and promised to build a new staff toilet.New toilets were finally built in March 2017. The school now
has four toilets: For boys, girls, people with disabilities, and staff.When GroundUp visited the school this week, pupils and staff
said the new toilets were more hygienic and safer.A Grade 8 pupil said: “The new toilets are clean and do
not smell, we can also wash our hands in the sinks so that we will not get
germs.”School principal Matiti Sithembiso said: “These new
toilets are safer than the previous toilets. There are slabs underneath to the
toilet to support it from collapsing.”We can rest assured that what happened to the
caretaker in 2015 can never happen to anyone in this school again.”But thousands of other South African schools still have
unsafe pit toilets and though the judgment in the Eastern Cape High Court in
Bhisho on July 19 compels the department to implement its norms and standards
policy, the education department has decided to appeal the judgment.In this week’s mini-budget, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni
announced that in 2018/19 funding for sanitation projects in schools would be
“reprioritised”.R3.4bn for education infrastructure”Over the medium term, government, donors and private
sector companies will fund these projects and test new sanitation technology,”
he said.He said R3.4bn had been allocated to the education
infrastructure grant for construction and maintenance of schools, including
sanitation.But Equal Education, which has been fighting for norms and
standards, said the minister’s speech did little to make the commitment to
safer schools a reality.”While he did not announce any further cuts to the
education infrastructure grants, the R800m that has been reprioritised towards
school infrastructure, provides little reprieve after the 2018 budget announced
a R7bn budget cut to infrastructure grants over three years,” Equal
Education said in a statement after the budget.”The irony of the minister’s promise in the wake of the
same government’s decision to appeal a court order compelling it to implement
the norms and standards for school infrastructure, also cannot be
overstated.”Several children have fallen into pit toilets in schools and
some have died according to civil society organisation Section 27:• In 2007, 6-year-old Siyamthanda Mtunu, a pupil at Dalasile
Primary School in the Eastern Cape, was using the toilet when the walls of the
cubicle collapsed on him. Siyamthanda died on the way to the hospital;• In 2013, 7-year-old Lister Magongwa, a pupil at Mmushi
Primary School in Limpopo, was using the toilet when walls of the cubicle
collapsed on him. He died in the ambulance on the way to hospital;• In 2014, 5-year-old Michael Komape, a pupil at Mahlodumela
Primary School in Limpopo, fell into a pit toilet at school and drowned;• In 2016, 5-year-old Oratilwe Dilwana, a pupil at
Tlhotlheletsang Primary School in North West, fell into a pit toilet. Oratilwe
swallowed human waste and sustained severe head injuries. His mother told
GroundUp he is now afraid of toilets and he has learning problems.• In 2018, 5-year-old Lumka Mketwa, a pupil at Luna Primary
School in the Eastern Cape, fell into a pit latrine and died.SOURCE: NEWS24


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