Author/s: Updated by Lori Lake
This indicator reflects the number and proportion of schools with adequate sanitation facilities. “Type of toilet” is used as proxy for “adequate sanitation”. For the purposes of this indicator, basic sanitation facilities include flush toilets, ventilated improved pit latrines (VIPs) and Enviroloos. Inadequate sanitation facilities include ordinary pit latrines, buckets or no toilets.
The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) considers flush toilets, ventilated pit latrines (VIP) and Enviroloos (urine-diversion or composting toilets) as acceptable sanitation facilities.1 While most people prefer flush toilets, VIPs and Enviroloos offer a safe and healthy alternative in areas where there is not enough water or suitable infrastructure to support waterborne sanitation. Ordinary pit latrines and bucket toilets are considered inadequate as they fail to stop flies and other pests spreading germs.
In 2006, 61% of schools (15,258 institutions) had acceptable sanitation on site. Forty percent (9,992 schools) had flush toilets and 21% (5,266) had VIPs or Enviroloos. Nearly four out of every 10 schools had unacceptable sanitation – mostly in the form of ordinary pit latrines, although nearly 1,400 schools used the bucket system or had no toilets on site at all.
Service provision shows a clear rural-urban bias. Predominantly urban provinces such as Gauteng and the Western Cape have the highest proportion of schools using flush toilets at 94% and 97% respectively. Schools using dry sanitation options such as VIPs and Enviroloos are concentrated in predominantly rural provinces such as Limpopo (39%), KwaZulu-Natal (30%), Mpumalanga (20%) and Eastern Cape (19%).
Service delivery is poorest in rural provinces. High proportions of schools using ordinary pit latrines are found in the Eastern Cape (50%), KwaZulu-Natal (39%), Limpopo (39%), Free State (34%) and Northern Cape (32%). Eastern Cape has the highest proportion of schools that have no toilets at all or are using the bucket system (11%).
Although the overall figures seem positive, it is unclear how many children are attending schools with adequate sanitation, and whether the facilities meet the needs of the children. The Department of Education does report on learner-to-toilet ratios, but is currently using a minimum standard of 50:1. This falls well below the minimum standard, recommended by the DWAF, of 25 learners to one toilet and/or urinal. These figures also do not indicate whether facilities are clean, hygienic and in working order. It is important that sufficient funds are allocated to ensure that sanitation facilities are used and maintained correctly, and that emergency and structural repairs are carried out.
Access to flush toilets appears to have improved slightly from 1996 to 2006. In 1996, only 33% of schools had access to flush toilets according to the School Register of Needs. The next survey, in 2000, found that 38% of schools had flush toilets. The National Educational Infrastructure Management System (NEIMS) reports that 40% of schools had flush toilets in 2006. These results suggest an improvement of less than 10 percentage points over a 10-year period, with the majority of schools still without flush toilet facilities. Conversely, the number of schools without access to sanitation appears to have decreased over the 10-year period. It is not possible to compare trends for acceptable and unacceptable sanitation, as data for VIPs, Enviroloos and pit latrines are not disaggregated for 1996 and 2000.
On the whole, it appears that children’s access to basic sanitation facilities at schools has improved since 1996, but this is not enough considering that nearly 40% of schools still had inadequate sanitation in 2006. Sanitation is not simply about access to safe and appropriate toilets; it also includes personal hygiene practices. Access to water is therefore an essential component of effective sanitation and this has also shown improvement since 1996.
The NEIMS report notes: “These statistics should not be interpreted to mean that infrastructures are either at the appropriate level of service or in an acceptable condition.”
The National Education Infrastructure Management System (NEIMS, 2006) collected information from 30,117 education sites comprising public schools, public early childhood education centres, public ELSEN centres (Exceptional Learners with Special Education Needs), public Adult Basic Education Training centres and educational offices operated by the Department of Education. Of these education sites, 25,145 were public schools. Independent schools were excluded from the assessments, or specified separately.
Information on the data collection processes is not readily available, therefore the quality of the data cannot be easily ascertained.
The Department of Education (2007) provides the following caveats:
• The master list of education sites is regularly improved and may change as new schools are established.
• There have been differences in the definition of various parameters from previous School Register of Needs assessments. These include level of water supply and type of sanitation.