The South African education system is a dichotomy; on the one hand, it has schools producing some of the best doctors, accountants, teachers, engineers and other professionals in the world, whilst on the other, it is challenged with significantly under-resourced schools, with asbestos-roofed classrooms, insufficient space, a lack of school furniture, no running water and hazardous pit latrines.
In 2018 and in the aftermath of a number of deaths - the consequence of the unavoidable use of pit toilets at rural schools, a released report identified almost 4 000 schools with either inadequate sanitation or, worse, a complete lack of toilet facilities.
We mobilised a team tasked with discovering needy schools and identifying appropriate solutions. We piloted this project in KwaZulu-Natal, visiting 20 schools across the province, and discovered a host of educational facilities with broken toilets and others lacking any form of operational sanitation facilities. We tested a variety of potential solution options, settling for 'Pour Flush' and ' Eaziloo VIP' solutions, made available by a Hammarsdale-based supplier.
Benefits of the Pour and Flush Toilet Solution:
- The elimination of odours and the presence of flies;
- No need for main water connections;
- The use of high-density polymer doors, with no sharp edges;
- Pre-cast concrete toilet structures, which provide a dignified and sustainable solution for rural schools;
- In-built safety features to prevent children from becoming hurt;
- The provision of the facility in an easy-to-build kit, avoiding the need for skilled artisans; and
With a viable solution in place, we set out to identify and confirm the suitability of schools for such an intervention. This is followed by assisting schools to obtain the necessary permission to install the facilities from the Department of Education. Thereafter, we identify local artisans or other service providers to install the solutions, under our team's supervision, installing either the ' VIP' or 'Pour Flush' kits. The use and maintenance is demonstrated to both teachers and learners at schools in which the solutions have been installed. Finally and upon hand-over of the new toilet facilities, learners attending the beneficiary schools receive hampers comprising food, hygiene packs or stationery items.
We give careful consideration to available budget and components, such as the number of children and staff, as well as pre-existing toilets and access to running water when deciding on toilet-type installation and the numbers required.
Our School Ablutions programme falls within our Socio-Economic Development Fund, thus qualifying for SED points.
Operational for a little under two years, we have facilitated assistance to schools some 15 schools in the Pietermaritzburg, Ndwedwe, Maphumulo, Greytown, Mphophomeni, Nqutu, Nitinini, Estcourt, Bergville and Hazyview areas, installing more than 100 toilet units, bringing safe sanitation to thousands of learners and the teachers in their charge.
In addition, a further two teams have been trained to undertake installations, giving effect to the capacity to complete an average of three schools every month. Looking ahead, we have identified a number of additional schools for toilet installations and have a number of requests yet to be investigated.