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Education department explains different progress reports for safe school toilets project

This article is more than 5 years old

The safety of pupils in schools was “critical”, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his February 2019 state of the nation address.

Ramaphosa described the 2014 deaths of two children drowned in school pit latrines as “tragic”, and said an audit four years later had found “nearly 4,000” schools still didn’t have proper toilets.

To urgently replace unsafe toilets such as pit latrines, the government launched the Sanitation Appropriate for Education (Safe) initiative in August 2018.

“Since we launched the initiative, 699 schools have been provided with safe and appropriate sanitation facilities and projects and a further 1,150 schools are either in planning, design or construction stages," Ramaphosa said.  

Minister gives different figures days later

But five days later as parliament debated the president’s speech, Angie Motshekga, the minister for basic education, said 787 schools “have been provided with safe, age- and grade-appropriate sanitation facilities, with the old pit latrines demolished”.

Another 1,062 schools were in the planning, design or construction stages, the minister said.

We asked the department of basic education about the discrepancy of 88 schools - both for completed and incomplete schools.

Ramaphosa’s figures were from December 2018 while the minister used the latest available to the department, as completion was a “moving target”, spokesperson Troy Martens told Africa Check.

Many private sector pledges to support the initiative were also being met, Martens said. The government has set aside R3.4 billion to fund the plan from 2019 to 2022.

Numbers are ‘not independently verifiable’

But it was difficult to independently verify these numbers, education-focused organisations told Africa Check.

“There is very limited publicly available data on the scope, plans and progress regarding the Safe initiative,” said Hopolang Selebalo, co-head of research for advocacy organisation Equal Education.

Ntsiki Mpulo, head of communications for civil society movement Section 27, added: “There doesn't seem to be any concrete information available on Safe inroads since its announcement.” - Lloyd Hazviney (19/02/2015)


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