A recent South African newspaper addressed the unsanitary conditions in Limpopo’s government schools, and since I live in Limpopo and teach once a week in a school there, I thought I’d add my two cents—which is worth about 22 Rand cents these days. So what I have to say is valuable.
I do not disagree with what the problem is. Mr. Milambo, the concerned parent, is certainly correct that “toilets are scary places.” I rarely see the youth at our government school use the bathrooms, complete with shattered windows, broken pipes and feces on the floor and walls. And this is with running water. The issue is why.
The parent said much more work needed to be done, which I can only assume means—much more work to be done by the government. The same government that gives his children a dozen years of free education and the right to pass grade twelve with just a 30% score is now to blame for the dirty toilets as well.
But only a small part of this story is in the light, while the truth is out there somewhere relaxing in the shade getting ignored. So before looking at the toilets, lets take a look at the classrooms. There you will find walls layered in graffiti, broken doors, busted lights, and desks with “F*&@ You” carved deep into the wood. I’m guessing the principal didn’t do this. At our village school, between the toilet rooms there are mutilated chairs stacked three meters high. But writing an article about that brings the guilt too close to the students—and then the parents—so the story channels toward the toilets instead.
Moreover, suppose we visited the toilets at the student’s homesteads? I have visited hundreds of homes in our village and the vast majority have outdoor pit toilets. Most of these, by the way, were built and paid for by the government. And what do you think we would find? Not places of care and beauty, but most often disheveled and foul-smelling shacks. Could it be that the students are acting from morning and afternoon at school the same way that they are acting in the evening at home?
Filthy toilets in government schools should not surprise us. That students do not care for property they did not work or pay for is a microcosm of why socialism does not work. The answer to the problem here is not that government should give more, but that they should give less. And it’s not only unbelievers that want more government cookies; Christians are drinking in these worldly assumptions from a fire hose.
Until we realize that more personal character, more parental responsibility, and less government means cleaner toilets, the only place these students will help themselves will be in the bush.