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Keynote Address by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP, at the Official Sanitation Facilities Handover at Ubuhle-Bemvelo Primary School, KwaZulu-Natal, 12 March 2019

Programme Director


SGB Chairperson

Teachers and Leaners

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen   

Good Morning!

Sanibonani eMtubatuba!

Programme Director; it gives me a great pleasure to speak to you this morning to mark the official handover of the new ablution facilities as part of our game-changer programme, the Sanitation Appropriate for Education (SAFE).

The overall objective of the SAFE initiative is to provide decent sanitation to all school-going learners. This actually marks the first official handover of sanitation facilities donated by private donors since the launch of the Sanitation Appropriate for Education (SAFE) initiative on the 14th of August 2018

The new ablution facility reaches beyond the bricks and mortar of water and sanitation. These will spare over 1000 learners and future generations of young South Africans the indignity, discomfort and danger of using pit latrines. 

Sadly, it’s late in the day for our precious angels Lumka Mkhethwa, and Michael Komape. Both these young people died in 2014 and 2018 respectively after falling into pit toilets. In their memory, we will move mountains to ensure that no child in South Africa dies under our watch.  

South Africa’s vision 2030 as captured in the National Development Plan (NDP), says by 2030, we must have provided universal access to piped water and access to hygienic toilets for all. To achieve the NDP lofty ideals, work must begin in earnest. We are convinced that decent sanitation will contribute to lessening the burden of diseases, achieving better health outcomes, and ultimately leading to a stronger and growing economy.

Since 1994, with the advent of democracy, we have been seized with the programme of reconstruction and development of our country.  Twenty five years later, we have to accept that given the economic imbalance in South African society driven by spatial inequalities amongst others, many of our people are yet to reap the fruits of democracy.

In spite of this, and despite financial constraints, we have delivered water and sanitation to over 80 percent of our households. This reaffirms our Government’s commitment to providing access to this basic human right.

Our stated mission to provide decent sanitation to all is also in line with the United Nations (UN) global agenda known as the Sustainable Development Goals. In particular Goal six 6 enjoins all governments to ensure that everyone has a safe toilet and that no-one practises open defecation by 2030. Failure to achieve this goal risks the entire Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Programme Director; at times (if not always) we tend to take the issue of sanitation and that of ablution facilities very lightly. Yet, the issue of decent sanitation for all is a matter of dignity and human rights. Beyond that it has been proven that good hygiene practices and proper sanitation play a crucial role in promoting good health thus lessening the burden of diseases.

For us as education sector, hygiene and sanitation are critical as they directly affect the learning outcomes. Studies show that proper sanitation and good hygiene practices increases learner participation in class while reducing absenteeism due to illnesses such as diarrhea and pneumonia.

Programme Director, the health, social and educational consequences of poor hygiene is well established, here are some examples of evidence.

According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
poor hygiene and sanitation facilities are a barrier to retention of learners in school. Diarrhea and respiratory tract infections are associated with poor hygiene and are contributing to child mortality. However, improved sanitation and hygiene in schools at a global level has been linked to improvements in children’s educational performance, reduction in absenteeism, especially for girls, and improved retention rates amongst teachers (UNICEF, 2009).

Other eminent educational researchers have marshalled empirical evidence that suggest that the global burden of disease and mortality rates amongst [school-going age] could be reduced by about 9.1% and 6.3%, respectively, if rapid success is attained in facilitating access to water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities.

Elsewhere in the world, evidence from East Asia through the Fit for Health Programme suggests that combining deworming and hand-washing with soap, tooth-brushing and good sanitation practices in the Foundation Phase (Grade R-3) can significantly reduce risk for diarrhea and respiratory infection. Thus, promoting school participation and heightened and conducive learning environment.

I am pleased to say through SAFE, our flagship sanitation initiative, coupled with the National School Hygiene Programme; and the National School Deworming Programme, we are beginning to get our ducks in a row. Together with our corporate players and social justice activists, we have the right energy, resources and expertise to tackle this challenge. Although, the task before us is daunting, we need to harness the energy, expertise and the passion of all stakeholders in addressing the issue of sanitation, and its attended side effects.

Together, posterity will remember us as a generation that made pit latrines and poor hygiene a thing of the past.  It is coal and ice for us to succeed, not for ourselves but for future generation of learners. I caution that we avoid swings and roundabouts – where we build decent sanitation in the midst of falling general infrastructure of the schools. Hence, I have called for a rethink of the model of infrastructure delivery in the education sector. It will be foolhardy indeed, if we were to persist with the present fragmented infrastructure delivery models that have failed to yield desirable results. We don’t want a situation of falling at the final hurdle by 2030 where it is envisaged that our country would have met global developmental goals.   

Our recent audit (2018) of sanitation services in the schooling sector indicates around 3898 schools still use the dangerous pit latrines and other inappropriate ablution facilities.

At least 2000 schools have insufficient sanitation facilities that require some form of refurbishments. In response to this emergency, President Cyril Ramaphosa launched the Sanitation Appropriate for Education - or SAFE – initiative in August last year. The President has undertaken to eradicate all pit latrines within the next three years. In his Budget Speech, our Minister of Finance, Mr. Tito Mboweni allocated R700 million for the 2019/20 financial year. 

Given the scale and fact that we are hard pressed for time, we are continuously mobilising all available resources. These include pledges from business, strategic partners, and the construction industry to replace all unsafe toilets in public schools.

As announced in the President Ramaphosa's economic recovery plan speech during September, 2018, some 1,150 sanitation projects are for funded for the 2019 financial year.

Since we launched the SAFE initiative some 234 projects out of 3 898 have reached practical completion. In addition some 415 SAFE initiatives are being implemented in the current financial year through the provincial infrastructure programmes and ASIDI.

Outside of the SAFE Initiative, a further 787 sanitation provincial projects are at practical and final completion in the 2018/19 financial year.

Through the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) some 226 sanitation projects and 21 inappropriate structures have reached practical completion in this current financial year.

The rest of the sanitation projects, both for this year and next financial year are either in planning, design or construction stages. As Government, we are determined to eradicate unsafe and inappropriate sanitation facilities within the next three years.

In conclusion, our singular goal for any partnerships in education is to create space for social partners and the business community to assist in realising the achievement of Delivery Outcome 1. i.e. “Improved Quality of Basic Education”. Programme Director, this educational outcome becomes possibly only within a conducive environment where there’re proper sanitation facilities at our schools. Our learners and teachers are spending their time in classes that promote good health and safety.

More importantly, our learners are well versed on matters of safe and hygienic practises. With or without high end sanitation facilities, we need to propagate the need for hand-washing with soap after every toilet visit.

It is the most cost effective way of reducing diseases thus promoting good hygiene and good health.

Lastly, we extend our gratitude to all private sector partners who have launched various initiatives under the SAFE umbrella. This is an outstanding example of collaboration between Government and business sector. Our ultimate objective is to address with urgency a great need that impacts on our children’s right to decent sanitation, health, safety and dignity within educational facilities.

I thank you.


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Written By: Fisher Julie
Date Posted: 3/12/2019
Number of Views: 1162

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