By Jane Sithole MPL, DA Spokesperson on Education:
If the Department of Education continues eradicating its provision of water and sanitation backlog at the current pace, it will take up to 40 years for the 708 schools in the province to get any form of assistance.
During the MEC’s budget speech earlier this year, she promised that in this financial year, the 178 schools in dire need of access to adequate water and sanitation facilities would be assisted. Over R240 million was set aside to complete this task.
The DA has witnessed first-hand what learners are subjected to on school sanitation. On numerous oversight visits to schools around the province, we found that many toilets were broken with faecal matter pouring onto flooded floors. Many toilets also did not have water for the learners to flush or to wash their hands.
MEC Reginah Mhaule, admitted during her oral response to a DA parliamentary question that the provision of basic services at schools was happening at a very slow pace. In fact, the department has only been able to provide 19 schools with adequate access to water and sanitation facilities and has until the end of March 2016 to assist the outstanding 159 schools.
The MEC also stated that for contingency measures, she has sent a memo to the Executive Council (EXCO) requesting for assistance in the form of implementing agents other than the Department of Public Works. To date, she has not received feedback from the EXCO and learners must continue without water and sanitation facilities.
Schools that have poor water and sanitation facilities can only offer a compromised quality of learning for pupils. The DA will not allow MEC Mhaule’s Department to continue subjecting learners to these inhumane conditions and will certainly not let it continue for another 4 decades.
As such, we will lodge a complaint with the human rights commissioner, asking for an investigation into the basic water and sanitation conditions at Mpumalanga schools.