Date: June 24, 2024 Type: Country:

South Africa: Government must be held accountable for eradicating school pit toilets by the end of 2024

There are still more than 3,900 illegal pit toilets in South African schools.

Amnesty International South Africa has launched a campaign calling on people in South Africa to petition the government to #EradicatePitToilets in South Africa’s schools, in an ongoing drive to address the issue.

As part of the campaign, Amnesty International has created a stunt, printing a newspaper insert with ink made from sterilised human faeces, taken from pit toilets.

“The revulsion readers may feel is what we, as Amnesty International South Africa, aim to evoke in people who see the advert, regarding the alarming reality that over a million schoolchildren are still exposed to daily physical and health risks due to pit toilets,” said Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa.

The government continues to miss multiple deadlines when it comes to the eradication of pit toilets, and keep moving the goalposts.

Plain pit toilets were banned from South African schools by the Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure in 2013 and had to be removed and replaced by 2016. However, more than a decade later, all the initial deadlines (2016 and 2020), plus new deadlines, including ones set for the end of February 2023, have been missed by the Department of Basic Education (DBE).

The DBE now plans to eradicate these pit toilets by 2025.

“We can no longer allow children in this country to be subjected to these illegal and unsafe pit toilets, and waiting until next year to do this is unacceptable,” Shenilla Mohamed said.

“We need everyone to petition the government to eradicate pit toilets by the end of this year. Education is not merely a right but a powerful tool for social and economic transformation and if we want to ensure a better future for the youth, they must be able to learn in a safe and enabling environment.”

These illegal pit toilets are not only violating the right to sanitation which is enshrined in the Constitution, but also the right to health, education, dignity, and privacy whilst in some cases posing a serious risk to the right to life.

“June marked Youth Month in South Africa, a time to honour those who fought for quality basic education for all. In this spirit, the incoming government is called upon to fulfil its obligations to the young people living in the country,” Shenilla Mohamed said.


The petition can be found here

Amnesty International South Africa’s pit toilet tracker is also available at the petition page – displaying the number of schools still affected in every province.

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

Genevieve Quintal, Media and Communications Officer, Amnesty International South Africa: +27 (0)64 890 9224;