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Forum to fight for pupils’ constitutional right to water and sanitation

African Rights Advocacy Forum intends to lodge Constitutional litigation and be the applicant against both the South African Human Rights Commission and the Department of Basic Education over lack of water and sanitation in some of the schools. | Supplied

African Rights Advocacy Forum intends to lodge Constitutional litigation and be the applicant against both the South African Human Rights Commission and the Department of Basic Education over lack of water and sanitation in some of the schools. | Supplied

Published Jan 12, 2022

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DURBAN - THE NGO African Rights Advocacy Forum (ARA) intends to lodge constitutional litigation and be the applicant against both the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and the Department of Basic Education (DBE) for failing to ensure that all pupils enjoy their constitutional rights to water and sanitation.

The organisation accused the SAHRC of failing to decisively perform its function to investigate, take steps and report on the conditions of most public schools that are still without proper water and sanitation.

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“We will file a case against the SAHRC for violation of section 184 (1) of the Constitution … which is clear that the commission must promote the protection, development, and attainment of human rights and to take steps to secure appropriate redress where human rights have been violated.

“The state’s Department of Education is also in violation of the Constitution with regard to section 27 (1) and (2) which states that the state must take reasonable measures to achieve the progressive realisation of these very fundamental rights,” said the ARA.

The organisation said both parties had violated human dignity in terms of section 10 and section 28 (2) of the Constitution, which speaks to a child’s best interests being of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child.

The organisation urged law firms and human rights advocacy groups to come together, and assist communities that are faced with similar conditions, where schools don’t have adequate water and sanitation.

The organisation said it was seeking a law firm that can be briefed pro bono or on contingency fees or via crowdfunding models, to ensure that such human rights cases were not left unattended.

Contacted for comment, DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the ARA was welcome to approach the court. The SAHRC did not reply to inquiries from the Daily News by time for publication.

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On Tuesday, DBE minister Angie Motshekga, said her department was working hard to address the infrastructure challenges at public schools.

“Under the ASIDI programme, we have completed 286 complete new schools, replacing old schools constructed of inappropriate materials.

“We completed water supply projects at 1156 schools and electricity supply at 373 schools.

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“As at January 10, we remain with 44 old schools constructed of inappropriate materials to be replaced, and 115 schools that require water supply. All of these are scheduled for completion in 2022/23.”

Motshekga said under the SAFE programme the department had replaced basic pit toilets at 1439 schools. A further 1423 schools remained to be done, with work due to be completed in 2022/23.

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