Editorial | Pupils the victims in toilets saga

Pendla Primary School in New Brighton, one of 12 visited by The Herald, is struggling with ailing infrastructure which has resulted in several blocked drains as well as vandalism to plumbing fixtures, toilets and taps.
Pendla Primary School in New Brighton, one of 12 visited by The Herald, is struggling with ailing infrastructure which has resulted in several blocked drains as well as vandalism to plumbing fixtures, toilets and taps.
Image: Tremaine van Aardt

Yesterday we told a disturbing story of the sanitation crisis in some of Nelson Mandela Bay schools.

Worst off perhaps is the EZ Kabane High School in KwaDwesi where more than 600 pupils are forced to share seven damaged toilets.

The school’s recently revamped ablution blocks remain shut, thanks to a dispute between the education department and small business owners who wanted to benefit from the renovation project.

Several other schools we visited face similar problems where ablution blocks are dilapidated and/or vandalised.

The repercussions are enormous. In some instances boys and girls are forced to share toilets, a potentially dangerous situation and a gross violation of the pupils' right to dignity.

While it is undisputable that our province is haunted by massive infrastructure backlogs, this does not absolve the government from its responsibility to provide a healthy, safe and efficient learning environment for pupils.

Contrary to the education department's assertion, the biggest problem here is not a lack of resources.

It is the mismanagement of those resources that consistently undermines the rights of the poor to quality education.

This is a result of systemic failures in education which became normalised because there are no consequences for poor performance.

Further, the pupils at these schools are victims of crime and vandalism that has become so endemic in our communities.

While indeed law enforcement must actively go after the culprits, this is only half the solution.

Communities must step up to lead the fight against thugs who seem hell-bent on stripping away our public schools piece by piece.

Their crimes carry far-reaching consequences. For many poor children in this city, a functioning school building is the foundation they need to be able to, one day, escape the cycle of poverty.

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