HRC to probe Eastern Cape school ablution woes

The DA laid a complaint saying the rights of more than 300 000 learners are being violated.

The DA in the Eastern Cape says the rights of more than 300 000 learners are being violated due to a lack of adequate sanitation. Picture: Carmel Loggenberg/EWN

CAPE TOWN - The Human Rights Commission (HRC) has begun an investigation into the state of sanitation at a number of schools in the Eastern Cape.

The Commission's Isaac Mangena says they have begun looking into a complaint they received from the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the province on Tuesday night.

Mangena has confirmed the opposition party sent evidence that over 1000 schools either lack proper sanitation or have no toilets at all.

He says officials from the commission will be dispatched to the schools mentioned in the complaint.

"It will involve us travelling to each and every one of those schools to gather evidence." He said they are in the early stages of the investigation.

"As the commission, we are investigating this and it will go through our processes, which include assessing whether there is a complaint to be investigated or not."

Edmund van Vuuren, the DA's Eastern Cape Education spokesperson, says the state of sanitation at some schools is unacceptable.

"The rights of these children are abused. They've got to go into bushes [and] hide behind other learners so the opposite sex does not see them."

On Tuesday, van Vuuren released a statement about the findings which his party sent to the HRC.

"A total of 340 000 Eastern Cape learners attend a school without proper toilets every day and, in some cases, there are no toilets at all."

Van Vuuren said the HRC thanked the party for their submission "as it will assist in their investigation into rights abuses in schools."

He said, "This is a human rights violation on an unprecedented scale."

The statement argued that Eastern Cape Education MEC Mandla Makhupula's claim that 1049 were without proper sanitation was short of the number given by "official Education Department data", at 1098 schools.

The provincial education department says it is aware that more than a thousand schools lack proper sanitation facilities.

Education spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima says, "We never went public with it because we used it to plan and to intervene in the problem, because we identified that there was a problem; hence there was an intervention."

Mtima says they're working with the national department on the schools infrastructure plan and have set aside R45 million to improve and provide sanitation services at the affected schools.

The department has promised to work with the HRC in its investigation.

KIND WORDS FROM ZILLE TO MOTSHEKGA

DA leader Helen Zille, surprised many last month when she praised Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, who is a member of the ANC and leader of the ANC Women's League.

She said Motshekga is the best national education minister her government has worked with.

Motshekga has repeatedly come under fire over the past few years for the Limpopo textbook crisis, among other issues and there have been calls for her to resign or to be axed.

But Zille has continued to defend the minister who she says has a limited budget and is doing the best she can.

"She can set policy frameworks, she can set norms and standards but that is all she can do. The entire execution, the policy formulation and the passing of laws lies in the provinces."

On Tuesday, Motshekga responded saying Zille had a good understanding for the difficulties faced in education administration.

She said Zille's defence of her was an example of healthy inter-governmental relations.