Departments To Be Taken To Court Over Pit Toilets

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The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is taking legal action against five provincial education departments over the lack of proper sanitation in their schools. This follows its longstanding calls for the issue to be resolved since the resulting deaths of 3 pupils within a span of four years.


The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has said it plans to eradicate more than 3,000 pit toilets in Mpumalanga, the North West, the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

Human rights commissioner for education, Andre Gaum said that a lack of access to proper water sanitation violates several basic human rights and that this has been something they have cautioned against since 2014.

According to a statement issued by the commission on Tuesday, the gravity of the issue of pit toilets in school was made more clear when five-year-old Michael Komape Grade R pupil at Mahlodumela Primary School tragically died after drowning in a pit toilet in 2014.

He had tragically fallen into the pit latrine that was used by the school when the dilapidated structure caved in. The official cause of his death was listed as ‘aspiration of foreign matter’. Michael Komape drowned in human excrement. He was just five years old.

The commission further states that more lives have since been lost due to unsafe sanitation citing the passing of Eastern Cape pupils, Siyamthandwa Mtunu, and Lumka Mkweta in 2017 and 2018.

The SAHRC says that while the court order in Kompane will address the issue of pit latrines in Limpopo, the problem remains unaddressed in other provinces.

Accordingly, the Commission believes that the time has come for this level of action to ensure schools are places of safety for all children in South Africa

According to the responses from the Provincial Departments of Education, the following is apparent:

  • 983 schools in KwaZulu Natal are reliant on pit latrines
  • 9 schools are without water; 44 schools have no form of sanitation and 19 schools use pit latrines in the North West Province
  • 113 schools are without water in the Limpopo Province
  • 59 schools are using pit latrines in Mpumalanga Province
  • 199 schools are without water, and 2 236 schools are using pit latrines in the Eastern Cape Province
  • 10 schools are without water, and 5 schools do not have any form of sanitation in the Free State Province.

After receiving the above information, the commission then wrote to six provincial education MEC’s alerting them of water and sanitation deficiencies at schools in their provinces.

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