1 November 2012

South Africa: Stinky Toilets for Primary School

Photo: Eva-Lotta Jansson/WaterAid
A woman points out the area where people are forced to answer the call of nature.

Itlotliseng Primary School learners in Tseki village, Phuthaditjhaba (Qwa-Qwa) in the Free State have to every day deal with dirty toilets and unreliable access to water.

The school has pit toilets and it is a challenge to maintain and keep them clean because there is limited funding available to do so and no water on most days. When OurHealth visited the toilets, the floors were wet and covered in mud and other debris. Some of the toilet seats had faeces on the rims. The toilets were quite clearly not safe to use.

Teachers are concerned that the unhygienic conditions put the learners at risk of getting sick. "We do not have ready funds to hire and pay a cleaner for the school, hence the conditions of our toilets" said Mr Khambule, the Itlotliseng Primary School principal.

According to a nurse at the nearby Tseki clinic, who prefers to remain anonymous, Khambule has on two occasions brought sick learners to the clinic.

One learner had diarrhoea, which the nurse suspects was due to the poor hygienic conditions in the toilets.

Grade 5 learner Canga Mamohapi (10) commented on the state of the toilets: "I am not confident about our school toilets, I would never invite a stranger to use our toilets as I think they will get sick."

Khambule said the only solution was to get the learners to clean the toilets every Friday, but he realises it puts their health at risk.

“We do not have the safety materials for cleaning, gloves, masks and so on, we are still waiting on the Department Of Education to deliver the material," he added.

A local Department of Education official, who asked to remain anonymous, said the problem was that the school principals were not given the authority and money to manage repairs of toilets at their schools.

They have to apply to the department and according to the official, obtaining tenders to deliver these services, could take years.

- Selloane Molakeng reports from the Thabo Mofutsanyana health district in the Free State

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