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How One Company Is Heeding the Call to Make Pit Toilets History by 2030

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Over 1 billion people suffer the indignity of open defecation. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation in 2030. Global Citizen partner Vodacom is using its funds and influence to promote sanitation rights. You can join us by taking action here.

According to the school infrastructure regulations that were set in 2013, all schools in South Africa should have had adequate sanitation by 29 November, 2016. The regulation also outlaws pit and bucket toilets. However, this is not really the case.

Passmark, a data journalism platform, reports that at least 4,500 out of 25,000 schools in the country have pit toilets.

Take Action: Tell Corporates in South Africa to Invest in Better Sanitation Facilities in Schools

Other than stripping children of their right to learn in environments that protect their dignity, pit toilets have proved to be fatal. In March 2018, a 5-year-old girl, Lumka Mkhethwa, drowned in a pit toilet in the Bizana in the Eastern Cape, where 1 in 4 public schools only has pit toilets. This comes four years after 5-year-old Michael Komane’s tragic drowning in a pit toilet in Limpopo province.

Mkhethwa’s passing renewed public rage about the lack of basic sanitation facilities in the country. It also moved President Cyril Ramaphosa to call for an audit of the state of toilets in schools. The audit report determined that R10 billion is needed to ensure that every school in the country has safe and clean toilets.

“The utterly tragic and devastating deaths of children so young and so innocent reminds us of the human consequences of service delivery, service delivery and also service delivery that is denied to our people,” Ramaphosa said, calling on business to join the government in making pit toilets history by 2030. 

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Heeding the call

Vodacom’s principle is to work in partnership with government and other civic bodies to transform societies to effect social change by investing in the Sustainable Development Goals. In order to ensure that the South African government receives the funding it needs to deliver on its promise for safe toilets in schools, Vodacom, through its collaboration with Global Citizen, is calling on corporates to mobilise resources for the initiative. 

The corporation believes that it has a responsibility to ensure that the South African government has the funding it needs to deliver on its promise for safe toilets in schools, and that corporates and the private sector form the groundwork for the success of this initiative by working with the government to implement safe sanitation policies for schools.

Vodacom has partnered with the Nelson Mandela Foundation to focus on Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres and to do away with pit latrines in these centres. The two organisations are in the process of identifying 13 ECDs across the country. In cases where the identified ECD centres have a pit latrine, Vodacom will decommission and replace it with appropriate sanitation. 

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Furthermore, in partnership with the Department of Basic Education, Vodacom is committed to the eradication of pit latrines in its 12 schools of excellence and 3000 connected schools. The company will conduct an audit of all its schools and work towards ensuring appropriate sanitation is put in place where it doesn’t exist. 

To this end, early this year, Shameel Joosub, CEO of Vodacom Group, hosted a breakfast session with some of its partners to collaborate on some of the most pressing issues in our schools, among these partners were construction companies who made serious commitments to help Vodacom achieve its targets. 

Promoting dignity

Other than the risk of children slipping and drowning in them, pit latrines and unsanitary conditions threaten their health, access to education, dignity, and opportunities to thrive. 

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As a Global Citizen partner, Vodacom is committed to using its resources and influence to help create the South Africa of Nelson Mandela’s vision, where everyone has human rights irrespective of their race, gender, or economic status.

This vision is rooted in the belief that we can #BeTheGeneration to ensure that no more children suffer needlessly because they lack access to good sanitation.  

The Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 is presented and hosted by The Motsepe Foundation, with major partners House of Mandela, Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, Nedbank, Vodacom, Coca Cola Africa, Big Concerts, BMGF Goalkeepers, Eldridge Industries, and associate partners HP and Microsoft.