KZN school mobilises community to replace dangerous pit latrines
In 2014, five-year-old Michael Komape fell into a pit latrine and drowned at Mahlodumela Primary in Limpopo. Three years later, Siyamthanda Mtunu died after the walls of a pit toilet collapsed on him at Dalasile Primary School in the Eastern Cape. Tragedy struck again when in 2018, another five-year old, Lumka Mketwa, fell into a pit latrine at Luna Primary in the Eastern Cape.
While these incidents shocked the nation, the eradication of pit latrines in South Africa’s most-under resourced schools is still a challenge. These antiquated sanitation systems continue to pose a risk to children who may fall into them or be exposed to dangerous gases.
Since the school’s establishment, learners at Sogidi Primary, a rural school near Tongaat on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast, have risked their lives by having to use hazardous pit latrines.
In a push for change, Nokuthula Sibisi, the Principal of Sogidi Primary, and Mark Fraser-Grant, an Executive Coach and Business and Leadership Development Specialist, worked together to restore the dignity and safety of Sogidi’s 200 learners, by enlisting the support of the community to build modern ablution facilities.
Sibisi was a participant on Citizen Leader Lab’s flagship leadership development programme and Fraser-Grant was the coach guiding Sibisi on this programme. The award-winning programme supports principals so that they gain the skills needed to confidently lead change in, and mobilise communities around, their schools.
Fraser-Grant says that Sibisi had always had a vision to eradicate Sogidi’s pit latrines. First, they researched companies and donors who could realise this vision.
‘’We settled on Innovative Methology, an NGO led by Pradeep Boodoo, that builds and renovates schools, health care and community facilities,’’ says Fraser-Grant.
As part of their efforts to empower the communities around Sogidi, Fraser-Grant, Sibisi and Boodoo enrolled locals to carry out the basic construction work under the supervision of experienced construction engineers. Fraser-Grant mentions that this very much in line with the way Innovative Methology works, where the school becomes a partner in their own project by committing to provide water, security and accommodation for the builder’s team. Builders, who are small, medium and micro-enterprises, are contracted to each project, and members of the community are employed for the project’s duration.
No project can be successful without funding. Fraser-Grant explains that the Victor Daitz Foundation came on board when they learnt that Sogidi was part of the Citizen Leader Lab network.
‘’The foundation wanted to support Principal Sibisi because they knew her heart was in the right place. They knew that by doing Citizen Leader Lab’s leadership development programme, she has had exposure to leadership, and they were impressed by how well she took care of her school,’’ says Fraser-Grant.
Sibisi believes that the leadership skills she gained on the leadership development programme were instrumental in attracting the funds and services to commence the project.
‘’The workshops really helped me strategise to involve stakeholders and companies in this project. With my new skills and Mark Fraser-Grant’s help, I wrote many proposals explaining the situation at my school, highlighting that the Grade R latrines were soon going to collapse.’’
Although construction will only be completed in May 2023, Sibisi says that the project is already generating excitement among her learners and staff.
‘’The school’s morale is changing. The learners are eager to come to school. Everyone’s self-esteem, dignity and motivation are up’’.
The community surrounding Sogidi has also become invested in making the project a success.
‘’Our community members are not only helping to build the new facilities, but they are also protecting the school from theft and damage. The relationship between Sogidi and the community is really improving,’’ says Sibisi.
You too can make a difference on KZN’s North Coast, by joining Citizen Leader Lab’s leadership development programme. Team up with a school principal to address unique challenges, develop leadership skills and gain valuable insights. Contact email@example.com or visit www.citizenleaderlab.org to learn more.
Let’s work together to create #TheFutureWeWant!