The Free State provincial government has committed to clear the pit latrine backlog in schools to ensure a healthy and safe learning environment for learners across the province.
Presenting her first State of the Province Address (SOPA) which placed significant emphasis on social transformation, fighting corruption and promoting economic development, Premier Sisi Ntombela said they were concerned with the existence of pit toilets at some schools as they posed a danger to learners.
“We have 156 schools with pit latrines at our schools in the province,” said Ntombela.
“We have been working on reducing this number recently and we will continue to do so in order to create a better learning environment,” she noted.
Thabo Mofutsanyana District, according to the Premier, has 51 schools with pit latrines followed by Fezile Dabi with 43 schools. The number of schools with pit latrines in Mangaung is 20, while Lejweleputswa has 39 such schools and Xhariep, three.
“Schools with pit latrines are not that many in the province right now. I think it’s also important to note that most of these schools are on the farms. These schools still have the pit latrines owing to a number of reasons, such as the inavailability of water. We have to address that issue,” explained Ntombela during a press briefing after she delivered her speech.
The Free State has a total of 1 198 schools with 713 516 learners. An additional 217 schools are situated on farms.
South Africa has recorded several cases of school children dying after falling into pit latrines prompting President Cyril Ramaphosa to order an audit to establish how many such toilets still existed in schools.
The national Department of Basic Education has since been tasked to ensure all pit latrines are phased out in all schools.
Ntombela said in her speech that the province was placing a lot emphasis on social transformation because they wanted to improve the living conditions of all South Africans, especially the poor.
This would be done through the provision of quality education and developing the skills necessary to grow the country.
“Our social transformation is about ending poverty and creating resilient communities. We treasure the value of education in improving the quality of life of our people. Quality education promotes social and economic development. It lifts people out of poverty, unlocks potential, ends ignorance and nurtures democracy.
“We treasure the value of education in improving the quality of life of our people in the province. Quality education furthers social and economic development. It lifts people out of poverty, unlocks potential, end ignorance and nurtures democracy. Education is the pathway to our desired growth and development destination in the Free State,” she said.
Ntombela said the province aspires to provide quality education, but emphasised that for that to be achieved, there must be significant investment in education infrastructure.
The Premier announced that 11 new schools will be opened in the province to ensure easy access to learners in all areas.
The new schools include: Thembalihle Primary School in Vrede; Silindokuhle Primary School in Warden ; GM Polori Primary School, Hoopstad; Malebogo Primary School, Hertzogville; Rehopotswe Primary School, Bethlehem; Ruang-Tsebo Primary School, Clocolan; Thuto Ke Thebe Primary School, Bloemfontein; Grassland Primary School, Bloemfontein; Grassland Secondary School, Bloemfontein; Thlolo Primary School, Botshabelo and Mooifontein Primary School, Zastron.
Ntombela added that in the new financial year, a further eight schools will be built in the province, and these will include: Special School in Trompsburg; Dr. Sello Primary School in Viljoenskroon; Vogelfontein Primary School in Bethlehem; Katlego Mpumelelo Primary School in Sasolburg; Tsehetso Primary School in Bothavile; Parys Primary School in Parys; Tsebo Ulwazi Secondary School in Frankfort and Refeng Thabo Secondary School Hall in Tweeling.
The provincial government has also been working to address the shortage of teachers in schools as this remains a major challenge.
The Premier said presently, 20 279 teachers are employed in the province, but 2 271 teaching positions remain vacant.
“This places a huge strain on the provision of education. We will this year employ more educators to fill these vacant positions. Previously, we promised to absorb temporary educators in our schooling system. This has been achieved. Since February 2018, we have employed 716 teachers permanently,” Ntombela she said.
From those new teachers, Thabo Mofutsanyana got 177 while 176 were hired in Mangaung, Lejweleputswa had 161, Fezile Dabi, 144 and Xhariep, 61.