Note to Editors: Please find attached soundbite by Baxolile ‘Bax’ Nodada MP.
It is clear that neither the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, nor her Department (DBE) is willing to accept responsibility for the danger unsafe pit toilets still pose to learners at schools across the country.
Once again, Minister Motshekga has tried to twist the circumstances of 4-year-old Langalam Viki’s tragic death. At a media briefing today, she claimed that Mcwangele Junior Secondary School (JSS) – the school that Langalam attended and where she died – had been provided with pit toilets that conformed to the Minimum Norms and Standards, so-called ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrines. And that Langalam’s body was found in the tank of a senior toilet, not the age appropriate toilet that she should have used.
Had Minister Motshekga visited the school, as the DA had done, she might have known that firstly, the toilets where Langalam was found, is the only ones available at that school. And secondly, that if those toilets conformed to the Norms and Standards, it is high time that the standards are amended as no human should have to suffer the indignity of such facilities.
The Minister herself would certainly not deign to use those toilets, nor would she allow her children and grandchildren to use them. Yet Langalam had no other choice to use these pit latrines, and her classmates, teachers and the other learners are forced to continue using facilities where their friend horrifically died knowing that anyone of them could be next.
While the DA welcomes the police investigation into the circumstances of her death, we will not allow the Department to use it as a diversion from its own failings at Mcwangele JSS.
During the media briefing, the DBE Director-General, Mathanzima Mweli, blamed slow rollout of appropriate and safe infrastructure on the building industry’s inability to move with greater speed. Despite this realisation – which is by no means new – the Department has a terrible track record of implementing consequence management. Had the well-being of learners and educators truly been a priority, the Department would have taken every opportunity to eradicate each and every pit toilet in a timely manner and remove unsafe infrastructure. DBE would have engaged with the Western Cape Education Department regarding its Rapid School Build programme, which built the equivalent of one school every four days.
The Department also went to great lengths to bemoan reporting on the numbers of pit toilets, yet takes no responsibility for the data discrepancies it provides.
Because it has become increasingly clear that DBE data is unreliable at best, the DA has launched a campaign against pit toilets. We will visit as many schools as possible to determine the true situation on the ground.
We will also approach the courts in an attempt to ensure all schools are outfitted with safe and appropriate sanitation facilities.
The DA will do all in our power to ensure that Langalam’s awful death is the last of its kind.