Updated 10 August 2017

SA's big stink - schools with no flushing toilets

Learners are exposed to diseases like diarrhoea and cholera with some schools having no working toilets.

In South Africa only 8 000 out of 24 000 schools have flushing toilets, with some schools comprising of over 1 000 children and no working toilets – leaving learners exposed to a number of diseases.

This is the alarming news, according to Domestos which is calling on South Africans to donate their pee to raise awareness on the poor state of sanitation in the country in light of World Toilet Day (WTD) that is marked annually on November 19.

Read: Sanitation crisis in Tembisa schools

“A day dedicated to toilets may seem a little meaningless at first glance, but it is the cold piece of porcelain in a closed room at arm’s length in our home that we take for granted could change a child’s life," said Unilever South Africa ‎Brand Manager Cynthia Luthuli.

“It [a toilet] is a privilege not taken for granted by women who are faced with a choice of defecating in public with a risk of being raped or assaulted while walking to the nearest public toilet. Nor is it taken for granted by those who are subjected to cholera, diarrhoea and other health issues caused due to the lack of proper sanitation,” she said.

Jacques Laubscher, Senior Associate, Integrated Infrastructure Services at GIBB Engineering was a guest speaker at a Domestos media roundtable with UNICEF and the Department of Public Works in Johannesburg last week.

Laubscher shed light on the different type of suitable sanitation, including flushable toilets, down water stream systems, Ventilated Improved Pit (VIP) toilets, pit latrines, among others.

Read: Is this the worst school building in SA?

He also highlighted the process and challenges involved in getting proper sewage systems built in more remote areas, as well as government's role in bringing proper sanitation to South Africa.

"The shortage of skills in SA contributes to the lack of proper sanitation, together with water, electricity and waste management, and should not be left to municipalities alone", said Laubscher

He suggested that options such as internships, the collaborative sharing of human resources, formal and informal on-site training should form part of Engineering students' compulsory practical training in honing their skills on the operation and maintenance of water and sanitation infrastructure.

In September world leaders signed the Global Goals, which is a road map for global development until 2030, at the United Nations General Assembly. Sanitation is a vital part of these goals and Goal 6 in particular aims by 2030 to achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.

Read: Childhood traumatic experiences linked with IBS

Domestos believes that it is uniquely placed to play an active role in addressing the sanitation crisis. In 2014 it committed to helping 25 million people globally to gain improved access to a toilet by 2020. This is part of Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan goal of helping 1 billion people improve their health and well-being.

Domestos’ WTD campaign is focusing on the impact of inadequate sanitation on children’s attendance at school. It is estimated that each year 443 million sick days are taken by children in the developing world - all due to unsanitary toilet conditions. That's the same as every child in South Africa missing school for 2 months.

"By putting the spotlight on this issue we hope to catalyse action, help everyone play their part in putting an end to this inequality, and draw attention to how improving sanitation will accelerate progress in achieving the Global Goals."

To date Domestos has helped 25 schools with new toilets and aided over 26 000 learners. This year Domestos launched the Hygiene Awareness programme in primary schools across the country, namely the ‘Germ Buster Club’.

Read: 'Every time I need the toilet, I have to crawl to the nearby bushes'

The programme aims to get learners to become brand ambassadors to their parents and spread the awareness of the importance of keeping toilets clean and hygienic at all times. In one year this program has reached over 113 000 learners in over 150 schools.

"Domestos believes in teaching children, from a very young age, the role of good sanitation both at home and in school, so that it will be inherent in their daily lives, their families, as well as those of their own children one day," Luthuli told Health24

The public is also encouraged to donate their pee to help us raise awareness of the poor state of sanitation in South Africa.

A mobile toilet and glass tank will situated on Maverick Corner at the Maboneng Precinct from Saturday November 14 until Tuesday November 17.

The glass tank will mimic the amount of pee collected over the 4 day campaign leading up to World Toilet Day.

Luthuli said the coloured water used will be recycled and donated back to the Maboneng Precinct.

"For every litre donated, Domestos will sponsor cleaning products to the equivalent volume. Domestos will also donate toilets to St Peter Calver School in Soweto," she said.

If you aren’t in Johannesburg, you can donate digitally. Simply leave out the ‘P’ in status updates and add #WorldToiletDay, #DonateYourP as well as tag @DomestosSA in your posts.  

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