South Africa

Parliament: Pit toilets to be eradicated by 2020, department pledges

There are more than 3,000 schools in the country that still have only pit toilets, MPs heard during a joint meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation and the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education on Wednesday. Presenting a report on the implementation plan to address sanitation backlogs, the Department of Water and Sanitation stated that by 2020 it aims to eradicate all pit toilets in the country.

The latest audit conducted by the departments of Basic Education and of Water and Sanitation has confirmed that sanitation in the country remains a huge concern, especially when it comes to schools. There are more than 3,000 schools countrywide that still only have pit toilets. The provinces with the highest number of pit latrines are Eastern Cape, with 1,598 in total, and KwaZulu-Natal with 1,365 in total.

Even though measures have been taken in the past to reduce these alarmingly high numbers by providing proper sanitation, the audit found that sometimes pit toilets are not destroyed even after proper sanitation has been provided, and, because the seats are often not age appropriate, younger children are affected the most when they use them.

The death of two children in separate pit-toilet related incidents at schools recently created a new sense of urgency for the government to act. Grade R pupil Lumka Mkhethwa, 5, from Bizana in the Eastern Cape, died in March 2018 after falling into a pit toilet at Luna Primary School, and Michael Komape from Limpopo lost his life after falling into a collapsed pit toilet in 2014. The deaths prompted the government to announce a new plan to eradicate pit toilets.

A plan to demolish pit toilets is under way which involves casting a slab over the pit toilets that are no longer in use after proper sanitation has been provided.

The audit before Parliament states that the intention is to eradicate all pit toilets in the country by the 2019/2020 financial year.

Speaking on behalf of the Water Resource Commission, Sudhir Pillay said that it is important that pit toilets be eliminated to preserve the dignity of people. What also needed be taken into consideration when building the toilets was gender, the needs of the handicapped, hygiene and physical safety. DM

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