- Eastern Cape school children are forced to use a field next to their school buildings as a latrine and parents are very worried about their safety
- Teachers are using neighbouring houses due to there being no proper facilities at the school
- Parents and teachers have said they feel the government has abandoned them by not providing the most basic facilities
Imagine going to a school and having to go to a nearby field to answer the call of nature?
This is the lived reality for learners at a school in the Eastern Cape where proper toilet facilities have not been provided.
Briefly.co.za learned this week from a report, originally appearing on human right’s watchdog website, GroundUp, that teachers at Ntshingeni Senior Primary have to go to neighbouring houses when they need to use the toilet, but learners are simply expected to “go” in a nearby field.
Since a child died after falling into a pit toilet, the toilets which are provided are considered too unsafe for children to use.
Malixole Dliso, a teacher at the school, said the existing pit toilets were built in the 1980s. They are some distance from the classrooms, and in a very poor condition. Seats are broken and there is only rough stone and concrete to sit on.
A parent cited in the report said this situation has been the same for generations and is an indication that the government doesn’t care about them. "We feel abandoned by the government. Most of us went to school here using these [same] old toilets, and even our grandchildren are forced to use them," said Phumla Sitetho, a parent from Ntshingeni village near Cofimvaba.
One teacher, Khanyiso Twala, said in his three years at the school, he has never used its toilets "because of the condition they are in".
The school which provides learning for pupils from grades R to 7, has 254 pupils ranging in age from five or six-years of age upwards.
There is some confusion between the school itself and the department of education for the province. The school said it has asked for years for new toilets, even sending photographs of the existing ones when asked to do so. However, the department says they have not received an application from the school.
Eastern Cape Department of Education spokesman, Malibongwe Mtima said each school is given a budget to cover maintenance at the beginning of the year. If it is insufficient, the principal may apply for "top-up" funding, but her said the department had not received an application from the school.
School principal Trom Antoni claims to have written a letter to the department in 2015 asking for new toilets. He said, they replied asking for photos which he duly sent but thereafter never heard back. Antoni said at this point, maintenance wouldn’t suffice as the budget was too small and the school needed to begin with brand new toilets.
"We plead to the department to hear our cry … for the sake of the young [pupils] that are at risk," said Antoni. Mtima has promised that his department will be taking the matter forward and said he will send a team to the school to survey the toilets.
Meanwhile, activist and struggle stalwart, Nomboniso Gasa, echoes what the parents have been saying. She feels the government has failed the children of this village and this week took to twitter to heap scathing criticism on the powers that do not make sure human rights of sanitation are provided to learners saying during Apartheid parents had to keep the school going.
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