Mthatha school has been waiting 18 months for pit toilets

Learners use an open field, teachers go to neighbouring houses

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Photo of broken toilet stand
Toilet structures which blew down in June 2018 have still not been replaced. Photo: Johnnie Isaac

Learners at Madonisi Junior Secondary School in Mthatha relieve themselves in an open field; teachers use toilets in houses near the school. The pit toilets at the school have still not been rebuilt 18 months after they were blown down by a gale force wind.

School governing body (SGB) secretary Nomboniso Saba said the zinc pit toilet structures had been blown down in June 2018. She said the problem had been reported to the Eastern Cape Department of Education (ECDoE) “but until this day nothing has happened.”

Saba said some parents had moved their children to other schools as a result.

“It is very bad for teachers to go around the village when they want to relieve themselves and it is also bad for learners to relieve themselves in open fields,” said Saba.

School principal Loyiso Dini said the situation was affecting teaching and learning. The school has 222 learners.

“Two teachers have left us for better schools and the department of education has yet to fill those vacancies. We have been forced to hire two additional teachers and this community, as poor as it is, has to pay R60 per household monthly in order for us to pay those additional teachers.”

Grade 9 learner Anathi Sigcawu said learners wanted the government to intervene urgently. “We are in a difficult situation, because when you go to pee, boys are peeping at girls.”

Another learner, Zwelandile Gqirhana, said boys had to walk down an old railway line to relieve themselves. “Even if you have walked a bit of a distance from school you are still visible when you take off your pants. People see you,” said Gqirhana.

ECDoE communications director Loyiso Phulumani said the school is among 262 schools that are meant to benefit from Sanitation Appropriate For Education [SAFE], a toilet programme initiated by President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2018.

He said Madonisi would only get temporary toilets because the ECDoE was in the process of merging it with neighbouring Empa Junior Secondary School.

But Saba said the SGB was unaware of plans to merge Madonisi with Empa.

“Before a school is closed there has to be a consultation process. Government will present its case for the school closure to the community. Most times a school is closed because it’s deemed unviable, like there are numbers of schools for the same grades within that area and numbers of learners are dropping. But even in those cases, the government considers community input and what it intends to do to remedy the situation to save the school from being closed.”

She said Madonisi had sufficient learners. “We only need toilets, refurbishment of classrooms and additional teachers,” said Saba.

Phulumani said consultation with the community would take place in due course. “We still intend to conduct the full process of consultations as we do with all schools identified for rationalisation and or realignment,” said Phulumani.

TOPICS:  Education Sanitation

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