By: Lindi Masinga
Johannesburg – Gauteng MEC of Education Panyaza Lesufi announced on Tuesday that his department had spent R300 million on constructing and upgrading toilets, as well as refurbishing state schools.
“The Department of Education is excited that it can eradicate issues of sanitation. In Gauteng there are no schools using the bucket system and they generally have good sanitation,” said Lesufi.
He said most of the sanitation problems were due to bad connections to sewage systems.
“The will to solve the problems is there,” Lesufi said.
The department, which said it was in partnership with Sanlam and NGO Sulabh International Centre for Action Sociology, called on other NGOs and corporate companies to assist with the eradication of sanitation problems.
“We finalise agreements quickly and private sectors shouldn’t feel redtaped,” said Lesufi.
He said the department took around 21 days to sort out agreements with companies that had ideas that would assist to resolve the problems and those that didn’t qualify were promptly notified.
The national government has a Norms and Standards department, which visits and identifies schools that are experiencing sanitation difficulties, from which a list is compiled by the education department to ensure that those schools are assisted.
Lesufi said basic school facilities were to be fully refurbished by 2017.
He added that the department was looking at improving schools that were in dire need of sanitation facilities and refurbishment.
“Coloured areas, schools in Soweto and some in Boksburg were made out of asbestos, they can’t be broken down and rebuilt because the children need to learn,” said Lesufi.
Officials from Sanlam and NGO Sulabh International Centre for Action Sociology said that the collaboration was sending out a message that poor sanitation couldn’t be allowed any longer.
Departmental official Solly Mafoko said sustainability and upkeep of the toilets was beyond the control of contractors.
“The condition of most of the toilets at schools is because they haven’t been maintained. As communities they need to look after them,” said Mafoko.
He said refurbishments cost a “lot of money”, and he hoped that the project would spread to other provinces, as well as attract more corporate companies to get involved.