A DA member of the provincial legislature (MPL) has called the dilapidating Louis Rex Primary School infrastructure a danger to the pupils as they use dysfunctional toilets and inhale asbestos fibre from its roof every day.
The MPL and party’s constituency leader in Enoch Mgijima, Jane Cowley, was speaking at an oversight visit to the school by fellow party member, MPL and shadow MEC for education, Yusuf Cassim.
Cassim said the visit was part of the president’s safe sanitation programme, to ensure that schools which needed new infrastructure would be assisted.
“Through this programme we learned of 1500 schools with unsafe sanitation facilities in the province. In the previous financial year, the Eastern Cape government was supposed to have provided 138 schools with new sanitation infrastructure, but they only managed to provide 42.
“It is a lot worse in the current financial year which will end soon. They were supposed to provide 262 schools with toilets, but most have not been started yet. They have this tendency to appoint implementing agents in some schools to do last-minute work that is not up to standard.”
Cassim said at the rate government was working, it would take 40 years to deal with the sanitation backlog in schools, without even mentioning those that needed refurbishment.
“This breaks my heart because we have seen the plight of schools in the province, particularly this one. There are still small girls who go to open fields to relieve themselves. It is unsafe, infringes on their rights and tramples on their safety because some schools still have pit toilets which we know have resulted in some fatalities.”
He said his main priority was to ensure the school remained number one on the education department’s priority list for schools that needed to be built, and on the safe sanitation programme.
Cowley said: “This is not only a sanitation issue, but one of the safety of children at Louis Rex who have fallen into holes in the wooden floors.
“These children also risk their lives by coming to school every day to inhale asbestos fibre of which the roof is made, and which could cause chronic illnesses. It is sad to see little children having to guard against their own safety in a school environment.”
DA member of parliament Desiree van der Walt said she would take up the matter of the condition of Louis Rex with the relevant committee to ensure help was fast-tracked.
The school principal, Bevan Christoffels, said the school had 1400 pupils of whom 800 were girls who had to share 12 toilet cubicles, most of which were not working optimally.