SAFE initiative to improve sanitation infrastructure in schools

SAFE initiative to improve sanitation infrastructure in schools

The HardHat Professional chatted with Ramasedi Mafoko (RM), Acting Head of Infrastructure Planning and Delivery at the Department of Basic Education South Africa, about the Department’s SAFE initiative to improve sanitation infrastructure in schools.

THHP: What is the SAFE initiative?

RM: SAFE stands for ‘Sanitation Appropriate for Education.’ It came after the tragic death of a young learner in the Eastern Cape. The Honourable President of the Republic requested that an audit of existing sanitation infrastructure needed to be conducted to establish the size of the sanitation backlog. 

THHP: What is the purpose of this initiative?

RM: SAFE seeks to eradicate the backlog in sanitation infrastructure at schools. The plan is to provide decent, safe and age-appropriate sanitation facilities in schools across the country. The cost of the undertaking though is such that private sector participation is needed. To this end, the government has invited the private sector, professional associations and individual South Africans to contribute financially or in kind.

THHP: How is this initiative different from the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI)?

RM: ASIDI is a programme managed by the Department of Basic Education to eradicate schools built from inappropriate materials such as mud and asbestos. The programme also has a basic services component to it which means providing sanitation, water and electricity to schools that previously had none.

The difference, therefore, is that ASIDI is building new state-of-the-art schools and has a specific target for basic services in other schools. The SAFE initiative, on the other hand, addresses the entirety of the country and aiming to ensure that no school is left uncovered.

The safe initiative covers schools with pit toilets, schools that need additional toilet seats, provision of Grade R sanitation facilities and for learners with disabilities, operation and maintenance, as well as the health and hygiene component.

THHP: Is this an admission that the school infrastructure crisis is too big for the Government to handle alone?

RM: We are living in times of a challenging economic environment. It is a fact that we inherited a huge backlog and there are competing demands for funding from the fiscus. In the spirit of Thuma Mina, it is a time for all hands on deck, and indeed, the government has reached out to the private sector to help shoulder the cost of this important programme not just for the safety of school children but also the dignity of local communities and the country at large.

THHP: What are the timelines for this initiative to achieve its goals?

RM: The Department is estimating to address this backlog by March 2020, given the resources and funding availability.

THHP: What are the plans in rolling this out?

RM: The programme is being rolled out. ASIDI, for instance, is implementing over 300 projects, and provincial departments are currently implementing over 1 500 projects. Several companies are already looking at the areas where they have pledged to assist and are working on design and procurement.

THHP: Has the Built Environment industry been approached? 

RM: Yes, and we are pleased to note that professionals either agreed to substantially drop their fees or, in cases, offered professional services at cost price.

THHP: Can individual Built Environment Professionals contribute to this initiative?

RM: Yes, they can and are welcome to contribute.

THHP: Why should Built Environment Professionals get involved in similar initiatives driven by Government?

RM: Because it is for the benefit of our country. Corporate citizenship means giving back to societies where you make your profits. Businesses can only be sustainable in a country where citizens participate fully in the economy. Well-built schools contribute to business by churning out graduate material for tertiary education and beyond into the workplace. It is a win-win situation.

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