Date: Jul 20, 2020

South Africa: Government must put school safety at the core of its ongoing response to COVID-19

In response to the ongoing debate on whether to keep schools open, Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa, said:

“Amnesty International South Africa is alarmed that we are still receiving reports of schools that do not have water or sanitation despite government promises that it ‘will ensure that no school goes without water’. 116 days into lockdown, we reiterate our 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 and sanitation immediately, especially as the government continues to push for schools to re-open.

Our report, released in February, highlighted that, out of 23,471 public schools, 4,358 schools still had only 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.

Learners and staff cannot be expected to stay at schools in such inadequate conditions. It is a life or death situation and there can be no further delays in fixing South Africa’s poor education infrastructure. The pandemic is not only a health crisis, but a human rights crisis, and the safety of learners, teachers, support staff, parents and communities must be put at the core of the government’s response.


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.


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