Is it 1661 or 13791 Pit Latrines in South African schools?

Or is it just semantics and playing with numbers? The kids and teachers in schools do not care about these kinds of antics. They want to have access to dignified sanitation, now!

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It is fascinating to read the news about sanitation problems in South African schools, and how different organisations/Governments/stakeholders calculate the numbers of pit latrines.

In the Sunday Times on the 20th of March 2022, the number is reported as 1661 schools with pit latrines, but according to the South African Human Rights Commission, 3,297 SA schools still have pit toilets, and from the Department of Basic Education in the NEIMS STANDARD REPORT 2021, the number 5167!

When you read the NEIMS report, a pit latrine with a vent pipe and possibly a wind turbine is a called a VIP (Ventilated Improved Pit), and suddenly for the sake of statistics it is not a pit latrine anymore.

So, how many VIP toilets? 8624.
Add the 5167 and voila! it gives us a total of 13791 schools that have pit latrines.  

It is not acceptable in 2022.

WHO IS TO BLAME?

Sanitation is complex, and many solutions are old fashioned.

We are most satisfied when we have flush toilets, we press a button and what we have produced disappears in a flush – Magic!

The truth is we are only moving the problem somewhere else. 80% of South Africa’s wastewater plants pump untreated waste into the ocean; dilution is their solution. Disgusting? Yes, but it is the same story in Europe and in the US. Flush toilets use lots of water, and to clean the sludge water uses lots of electricity, and it costs lots of money. 

CAN WE BLAME THE GOVERNMENT?

Installing the infrastructure for a water-based sewage system is expensive, requires skilled engineers, and lots of water and energy. In South Africa, we have areas with little or no water and load-shedding. 

So why are we still using water as a vehicle for transporting our waste? The answer is that most people still think that it is the best solution.

What if we could provide the same “flush and forget” experience without such a heavy impact on the environment?

At Sanitation Ambassadors we have developed a closed loop solution that can be scaled up, designed to use as little water as possible as well as use the output material as fertiliser.

Removing pathogens and pollution from water sources while creating jobs outside the urban environment. The cost? Between 25-50% cheaper than the most common solutions and yes, it is still a flush and forget experience, without the “splashback”!

Even if you add ventilation, a pit latrine is still a pit latrine. As we say in Sweden, lipstick may make the pig look prettier, but it is still a pig at the end of the day.

Birger Lundgren
CEO & Founder
Sanitation Ambassadors

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