Pit toilet eradication deadline missed by Limpopo education department

But department says it’s 80% of the way there

By Liezl Human

4 April 2024

In April 2023 learners and parents marched to the Limpopo Basic Education Department offices in Polokwane to demand the immediate eradication of pit latrines in schools. Archive photo: Bernard Chiguvare

The Limpopo Department of Education has missed its own deadline to eradicate pit toilets in the province, civic organisation Equal Education said on Tuesday.

In a statement on 2 April, EE said the department had missed its deadline to provide sanitation upgrades to all priority 1 schools, which are schools that only have pit toilets. This deadline was initially 1 April 2023 but this was shifted to 1 April 2024, EE said.

Limpopo Department of Education spokesperson Mosebjane Kgaffe told GroundUp that upgrades had been completed at 497 of the 566 priority 1 schools.

The department’s implementation plan followed court orders in 2018 and in 2021. The Limpopo High Court ordered that the department provide the court with plans to eradicate school pit toilets every six months.

The court cases were launched by the family of five-year old Michael Komape who died when he fell into a pit toilet at his school in Chebeng Village outside Polokwane in Limpopo in January 2014. GroundUp covered the court hearings here.

More recently, in March 2023, a four-year old girl died after falling into a pit toilet in an Eastern Cape primary school.

EE said in its statement that the department was disregarding the law and violating learners’ constitutional rights daily “without any consequences”. The organisation said there was a “lack of political will and urgency shown by the department”.

EE called on the government to ensure that pit toilets are eradicated, that all schools are provided with safe toilets, and that enough funding is allocated to “address the school sanitation crisis”.

There were 1,154 schools across all three priorities in need of sanitation upgrades in Limpopo, according to Kgaffe.

Priority 2 schools are schools with some proper toilets, but not enough, and some pit toilets which need to be demolished. Priority 3 schools have a compliant number of proper toilets but still have some pit toilets that need to be demolished.

Kgaffe said “challenges delaying progress” at priority 1 schools include disruption of construction projects by community forums, incidents of poor performance by contractors, and budget cuts.

“More than 80% of priority 1 schools have been attended to. The rest will be completed before the rainy season. The department has been providing chemical toilets where construction is in progress,” said Kgaffe.