"We feel abandoned by the government. Most of us went to school here using these [same] old toilets, and even our grandchildren are forced to use them," said Phumla Sitetho, a parent from Ntshingeni village near Cofimvaba in the Eastern Cape.
Malixole Dliso, a teacher at Ntshingeni Senior Primary, said the toilets were built in the 1980s. The zinc toilets are some distance from the classrooms and in a poor condition. The seats are broken and there is only rough stone and concrete to sit on.
"Since a five-year-old learner fell into a school pit toilet in Mbizana in the Eastern Cape, we feel our children are not safe in these toilets," said Sitetho.
The school has 254 learners from grade R to grade 7.
Young children use a field as a toilet. Teachers ask to use toilets at neighbouring houses. One teacher, Khanyiso Twala, said in his three years at the school, he has never used its toilets "because of the condition they are in".
Spokesperson for the Eastern Cape Department of Education Malibongwe Mtima said at the beginning of the year, each school is given a maintenance budget. If it is insufficient, the principal may apply for "top up" funding. He said the department had not received an application from the school.
But school principal Trom Antoni said he had written a letter to the department in 2015 asking for new toilets. He was told to send photographs of the toilets, which he said he did. He said he never heard back.
Antoni said the maintenance budget was not enough. They needed to start afresh with new toilets. "We plead to the department to hear our cry ... for the sake of the young learners that are at risk," said Antoni.
Mtima said the department will send a team to the school to survey the toilets.
The broken toilets at Ntshingeni Senior Primary. Photo: Yamkela Ntshongwana