The battle for safe toilets in Limpopo schools is due to continue in court on Friday. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu
The battle for safe toilets in Limpopo schools is due to continue in court on Friday. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Court urged to appoint independent person to monitor Limpopo pit toilet plans

By IOL Reporter Time of article published Aug 5, 2021

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EDUCATION advocacy group Equal Education (EE) and Section 27’s fight to get rid of pit toilets at Limpopo schools is due to continue in the high court in Limpopo on Friday.

The lengthy court case dates from 2016 when Section 27 first made the court application. Section 27 was later joined by Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) as amicus curiae (friends of the court).

EE and Section 27 are petitioning for the Limpopo Department of Education to draft a new plan to fix school toilets, one that is “reasonable” and meets the requirements of the structural order. The plan should also outline how the department will address the urgent school sanitation problems in the province.

They are asking the court appoint a special master – an independent person who is normally appointed by a judge to assist the court in making sure the court order is implemented.

“In this case, we want a Special Master to oversee the implementation of the new plan that we want the DBE and the LDoE to produce. A Special Master enhances the court’s supervision by bringing additional resources and specialised skills to the case,” the organisations said.

The second part of the court application follows a 2018 court judgment in which the court ruled that the Limpopo Department of Education (LDoe) must provide an implementation plan outlining when and how the department would remove and replace pit toilets in schools across the province. In its report to the court, the department said it would only get rid of the pit toilets in 2031.

The advocacy groups argue that the set 2031 deadline is unacceptable.

“(It) fails to meet the requirements of the structural order of the court, and completely goes against the legally binding deadline provided in the Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure. There is not enough urgency or determination from the LDoE in fixing school toilets, and not enough care shown for the serious consequences that poor infrastructure has on learners and teachers in Limpopo,” the groups said.

The advocacy groups say the LDoE’s excuse of having a “tight budget” was not enough. They say the provincial education department has a history of not only underperforming when it comes to school infrastructure deliver but also underspending its infrastructure budget.

“From 2018/19 to 2019/20, the department failed to spend more than R372 million of its infrastructure budget. This amounts to 23% of the R1.6 billion that the department said it needs to get rid of plain pit latrines.”

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