The Department of Basic Education (DBE) launched the Sanitation Appropriate For Education (SAFE) programme to address the issue of poor sanitation at 3 898 schools throughout the country. The Department had the aim of achieving this target by 31 March 2022, however, over a year later, this target has yet to be met.
The DBE had the aim of eradicating all pit toilets by the 2022/2023 financial year, and over a billion rand was committed to this endeavour. However, this goal has not been met and an adjusted target of eradicating all pit toilets by 2025 has since been set.
Concerns have been raised about not only the hygiene issues that come with these pit latrines, but also the safety of children attending the schools where these facilities are still being used. Pit toilets have resulted in a number of injuries and in some cases, even the casualties of young children.
The Minister of the Department, Angie Motshekga, revealed that 3 898 was the initial number of schools assessed to be dependent on pit toilets. However, after a reassessment and due to factors such as unviable and small schools, and the removal and addition of schools from the list, this number was amended.
There are now 3 397 schools on the SAFE programme, with new schools having been added in 2022 and 2023. Of these, 2 489 schools have progressed to practical completion, with solutions including water-borne and dry sanitation where water is not accessible.
Currently, 908 schools remain on the programme and these projects should be completed throughout the 2023/2024 financial year.
All of the 3 898 schools made use of basic pit toilets. Where possible, these schools received flush toilets, and others received dry sanitation solutions.
The remaining 908 schools will receive flush toilets if water supply is possible, however, the others will receive ventilated improved pit toilets. These improved pit toilets will need to conform to the requirements of SANS 10400 Q.
Motshekga further said that the Department is currently working with the Water Research Commission to launch more innovative technologies, such as closed-circuit flush toilets.
On average, this project will cost R2.4 million per school. This includes VAT, the demolition of existing pit toilets, all earthworks, all building works, as well as the construction of walkways and retaining walls.