President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on government and its social partners to strengthen their working relationship to address backlogs in the provision of school and health infrastructure.
Speaking at the opening of Marobathota High School and Evelyn Lekganyane Clinic in Polokwane, Limpopo, on Wednesday, the President said backlogs in public infrastructure impact negatively on children's basic rights to a decent basic education and to health, safety and dignity within educational facilities.
"They impact on the right of our people to access health care services and in the most severe cases, on their right to life and dignity.
"The work that has been undertaken here at Marobathota High School forms part of a broader national effort to build a positive school environment. It is clear that our school infrastructure build programme is beginning to bear fruits for our people," President Ramaphosa said.
He defined a positive school environment as one that has appropriate facilities, well-managed classrooms, available school-based health support, and a clear, fair disciplinary policy.
President Ramaphosa said government is committed to use schools as vehicles for promoting access to a range of public services among learners in areas such as health, poverty alleviation, psychosocial support, sport and culture.
"We are working with the private sector and development partners to eradicate pit latrines and other inappropriate sanitation facilities in all our schools within the next three years.
"Our experience tells us that school infrastructure is the foundation but effective learning requires a comprehensive approach that addresses not only all aspects of the teaching and learning experience, but also the social conditions under which learners live," the President said.
The President said safety in schools cannot be overemphasised.
"We cannot allow any learner to be injured or killed by another learner, and we cannot allow our schools to become places of fear."
He thanked faith-based leaders for the role they play in addressing some of the challenges schools face.
"Today, they are working in partnership with government to build a better life for all South Africans. It is a reminder of the essential role that religious leaders have played in building cohesive communities," the President said.