South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has launched a programme to remove all pit latrines from the country’s public schools, following the deaths of two 5-year-olds which shocked the nation.
Speaking at the launch of the Sanitation Appropriate for Education (Safe) – programme, in the capital Pretoria on Tuesday morning, President Cyril Ramaphosa said it was unfortunate that the initiative came about as a result of tragedy.
In March this year, 5-year-old Lumka Mkhethwa drowned in a pit latrine at her school in the Eastern Cape. She was the second known case to die in this manner – in 2014 Michael Komape also died after falling into a school toilet in the northern province of Limpopo.
Earlier this year, President Ramaphosa had pledged to eradicate pit latrines from all schools by the end of 2018, but no mention was made of a deadline during this week’s announcement.
About one in five South African schools have pit latrine toilets.
Many are made from cheap metal, are shoddily built and left uncovered.
The Safe project will be funded in partnership with business and civil society groups including the Nelson Mandela Foundation and UNICEF.
Pit latrines, sometimes called long-drop toilets, are a type of toilet that collects faeces in a hole in the ground. They are classed as basic sanitation.
Yet an estimated 27% of South Africans do not have access to even basic sanitation, according to the charity Water Aid. That is slightly lower than the global average of one third.