Date: May 21, 2020

South Africa: All schools must be made safe before re-opening

In the wake of the Department of Basic Education’s (DBE) briefing last night, Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa, said:

“We call on the DBE to ensure that adequate and appropriate health and safety measures are implemented at all schools before the planned re-opening on 1 June. The DBE must ensure that the provision and on-time delivery of personal protective equipment (PPE) is available for all learners and school staff, that adequate water and toilet facilities are installed, and that inadequate school and classroom infrastructure has been addressed and replaced.”

In the DBE’s briefing last night, Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga stated that they “will ensure that no school goes without water. Just-in-time delivery will be made”. We call on the DBE to be transparent and accountable on this promise, and to ensure that every school has access to safe, sufficient and reliable water before re-opening.

Our report released in February highlighted that, out of 23,471 public schools, 4,358 still had only illegal pit latrines for sanitation and 37 schools had no sanitation facilities whatsoever. Our field research found some schools lack both decent sanitation and a reliable water supply. At a time when access to water and sanitation is of utmost importance to stay healthy, the lack of this essential provision in schools is deeply worrying.

“After years of repeated failings and missed targets, now is the time to fix South Africa’s poor education infrastructure once and for all. Learners and staff cannot be expected to return to schools in such inadequate conditions. The DBE must make clear standard operating procedures and guidelines to ensure accountability and efficient monitoring, so that ‘no school is left behind’,” said Mohamed.

“This pandemic is not only a health crisis, but a human rights crisis, and it has emphasised once more that the right to quality education must be defended now and always.”


The Department of Basic Education (DBE) held a briefing on Tuesday, 19 May 2020, outlining the plans for the phased re-opening of schools from 1 June 2020.

Amnesty International South Africa’s campaign, Right To Water: Turn On The Tap, calls for the government to recognise that many people in South Africa are denied their constitutional right to water, and to publicly commit to providing equal access to water for everyone – now and always.

Take action here and tell the government to #TurnOnTheTap.

For more information or to request an interview, please contact:

Mienke Steytler, Media and Digital Content Officer, Amnesty International South Africa: +27 (0)64 890 9224;