Education department shows contempt for rights of learners

James Masango MPL

Provincial Chief Whip of the Official Opposition

Mpumalanga learners continue to suffer as the provincial education department ignores their rights and the Constitution, which became apparent during a visit to Sizamile Primary School in KwaMhlanga.

The school has major infrastructure challenges and learners are exposed to health hazards on a daily basis. One such is the school’s septic tank which was built on a wetland, and when it rains sewage seeps through the tank and into the school’s grounds and classrooms. This not only jeopardises the health of learners and staff, but the unsightly sight and stench are not conducive for learning.

The school’s toilets are in deplorable condition and insufficient for the 865 learners. Currently there are eight toilets for the primary school girls, six for the primary school boys and seven each for Gr R boys and girls. None of the toilets have doors or seats, contributing to the already unhygienic conditions, and deprive the children of their right to privacy.

The staff toilets are no better and although there are enough to accommodate the staff, only some have doors while the entire men’s block has no roof. Click here for photos

The situation clearly illustrates the department’s disrespect for learners, teaching staff and the Constitution, and a possible rights violation, as everyone has a right to privacy, to an environment that is not harmful to their health or wellbeing and that a child’s best interests are of paramount importance.

The department must address this problem immediately by prioritising the completion of the toilet blocks, repositioning the septic tank and conducting a mop-up operation before the start of the 2014 academic year, otherwise the DA will lodge a complaint with the Human Rights Commission and request an investigation.

Every child has the right to learn in a safe environment, and not exposed to health hazards or humiliation. Government has a duty to provide children with such, to promote and stimulate learning, giving individuals a chance to a better, more prosperous future.