99% of public schools in the Eastern Cape aren’t properly fenced – and pit latrines abound


(Photo by Gallo Images/Foto24/Denvor de Wee)

  • Most schools in the Eastern Cape fail to meet
    the minimum norms and standards set under the South African Schools Act.
  • Only 1% of schools in the province have adequate
    fencing which protects learners, teachers, and classrooms against violence
    and vandalism.
  • The province also accounts for 45% of schools
    in the South Africa which rely solely on pit latrine toilets.
  • Making matters worse, vital school
    infrastructure projects have been halted due to a lack of funding.
  • For more stories, go to

The Eastern Cape has the highest number of public schools in
South Africa which lack adequate fencing, rely solely on pit latrines, and are built
of appropriate material.

The majority of schools in the Eastern Cape fail to meet the
minimum standards prescribed under the South African Schools Act. This was recently
revealed through provincial infrastructure statistics presented by the minister
of basic education, Angie Motshekga, in reply to a Parliamentary question tabled
in April

Of South Africa’s 23,259 operational public schools, some 5,290
– roughly 23% – are in the Eastern Cape. But a dire lack of resources, isolated
classrooms, and the mismanagement of funds intended to improve the level of
education in the province continue to plague pupils.

The province has one of the lowest matric pass rates in the
country, with only 68% of pupils obtaining their National Senior Certificates in
2020. It’s estimated that more than 120,000 pupils dropped out of school last
year, in part, due to challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic and the
lack of digital learning alternatives in the province.

And while most classrooms in the Eastern Cape reopened to
pupils in 2021, a third of all schools hadn’t received textbooks and more than
600 weren’t led by principals at the start of the first term.

Adding to the province’s woes was National Treasury’s recent
decision to cut R1.7 billion from school infrastructure grants.

With specific reference to Section 5A of the South African
Schools Act, which deals with the norms and standards for basic infrastructure
and capacity in public schools, Motshekga, in 2017, finalised the School Infrastructure
Safety and Security Guidelines

Emphasis was placed on constructing secure perimeter fencing to protect both learners and classrooms. These guidelines
determined the materials which would be used to construct these fences, its
height, foundations, over-climb preventions, and anti-burrowing properties.

Eastern Cape Schools

(Parliamentary Monitoring Group)

Almost all school infrastructure projects – including those
intended to align with the SISG – in the Eastern Cape have been suspended due
to a lack of funds
. Today, only 1% of schools in the province meet the adequate
fencing requirements.

The suspension of school infrastructure projects has also
done little alleviate the province’s ongoing pit latrine problem. Motshekga recently revealed that 944 public schools in the Eastern Cape relied
solely on pit latrine toilets.

This issue was once again highlighted in March, when an
Eastern Cape school principal was charged with child abuse for allegedly
forcing a pupil to receive his cell phone from a pit latrine toilet.

Of the 2,111 schools in South Africa which rely exclusively
on pit latrines, the Eastern Cape accounts for 45% of the total.

Almost a hundred schools in the province are also identified
as being “built entirely of inappropriate materials”. This generally refers to
schools built of mud or asbestos. Motshekga noted that these schools are
currently subjected to the process of “rationalisation and realignment” which will
phase out the mixed schooling system whereby primary and secondary pupils are
taught in the same classroom.

Motshekga listed a limited budget and theft of
infrastructure assets as fundamental problems facing embattled schools.

minister said that the continued reliance on pit latrines was because of “drought
were boreholes run dry, and waterborne toilets are not used anymore because of
lack of water.”

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