PRETORIA– There are 3,398 schools in South Africa which require to have their pit latrines replaced and in many of these cases reticulated water required for modern lavatory equipment to function are not available, says Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.

She told the media here Wednesday that the more than 45 million Rand (about 3.1 million US dollars) raised at the launch of the Sanitation Appropriate for Education (SAFE) initiative by President Cyril Ramaphosa here on Tuesday would assist government to eradicate pit latrines in schools.

She said some of the schools still using pit latrines would be dealt with in the current fiscal year through provincial education budgets. “However, in order to fast-track the complete eradication of pit latrines in schools, [we] require more than government coffers can provide, said Motshekga.

When launching the SAFE initiative on Tuesday, President Ramaphosa ordered the Minister to fast-track the roll-out of adequate sanitation facilities in schools following the deaths of two primary school pupils, Michael Komape and Lumka Mkethwa, who died after falling into pit latrines they were using.

Tuesday’s launching of the SAFE initiative was attended by chief executives of several companies as well as prominent individuals, where President Ramaphosa explained government’s ongoing efforts thus far to provide appropriate sanitation to schools.

According to the Department of Basic Education, more than R45 million were raised at the event, while a number of pledges in the form of professional services were made. Companies and organizations such as Avbob, Intsika, Anglo American, Lonmin, Unilever, Unicef, Sasol, IDC, Indigo Kulani Group, SA Institute of Architects, Tile Africa andAmalooloo donated and pledged their support.

I would like to thank all of those businesses and individuals, who have agreed to partner with the Department of Basic Education to eradicate pit latrines in our schools and restore the dignity of our children. The support has been truly incredible, said Motshekga.

The department said in instances where reticulated water connections are not available, the government has already provided appropriate alternative sanitation technologies in around 9,600 public schools.

In calling on the business community to partner with the department through their corporate social investment and assist government in restoring dignity to children by eradicating pit latrines in schools, the president said: The SAFE initiative will spare generations of young South Africans the indignity, discomfort and danger of using pit latrines and other unsafe facilities in our schools. Schools should be places where children can be safe, supported, nurtured and empowered.

Given the overwhelming scale of backlogs and the current state of the economy, it is also clear that government cannot address this important basic human right without assistance from the private sector. It is for this reason we are launching the SAFE initiative.”