Three women protest silently as Ramaphosa speaks at launch of better school sanitation initiative

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PRETORIA, August 14 – Three women silently protested in the hall while president Cyril Ramaphosa was delivering his speech on Tuesday during the launch of the Sanitation Appropriate for Education (SAFE), an initiative aimed at improving sanitation at some of the country’s poorest schools.

The women held placards and slammed the government for the deaths of two young children who fell in pit toilets.

The launch of SAFE comes four years after the death of five-year-old Michael Komape, who fell and died in a pit latrine at his Limpopo school in 2014.

His death was followed by that of another five-year-old, Lumka Mkthethwa from the Eastern Cape, who died after falling into a pit latrine in March.

After Mkthethwa’s death, the president instructed the Minister of  Basic Education Angie Motshekga to carry out an audit of school sanitation facilities and to submit a plan to eradicate these within three months.

One of the placards from the women questioned why the government is hosting the event while Motshekga is appealing a ruling to fix the schools.

“Why did government last week file an appeal of the Bhisho High Court judgment that says government can’t avoid fixing schools.

“How do we appeal a judgement which makes the norms better and we come here and talk about the dire state of school infrastructure and the need to eradicate pit toilets, but you are fighting that as a department,” asked Hopolang Selebano from NGO Equal Education.

Gauteng MEC of Education Panyaza Lesufi who was also at the event went to the women and calmly spoke to them.

Before stepping down from the podium, Ramaphosa acknowledged the women and said Mkthethwa’s death was the catalyst for the initiative.

“Schools should be places where kids are safe and empowered. They should be centres for building communities. This initiative goes beyond the brick and mortar of sanitation, it touches young souls of our nation,” Ramaphosa said.

The SAFE initiative, led by the department of basic education in partnership with the National Education Collaboration Trust, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and UNICEF, is in response to the significant school sanitation challenges facing SA’s poorest schools.

– African News Agency (ANA)