Rotary District 9400's dignity toilets initiative transforming schools

District Governor Riana Pretorius, a Rotary International representative, and Past District Governor Abdul Hamid El Awa from Egypt, during the launch of the project to eradicate and pit latrines. Supplied

District Governor Riana Pretorius, a Rotary International representative, and Past District Governor Abdul Hamid El Awa from Egypt, during the launch of the project to eradicate and pit latrines. Supplied

Published May 20, 2024


In a remarkable stride towards improving sanitation in South African schools, Rotary District 9400, under the leadership of District Governor Riana Pretorius, has launched an ambitious project to eradicate unhealthy and dangerous pit latrines.

This initiative, a significant milestone for the district that includes Botswana, Eswatini, Mozambique, and the northern provinces of South Africa — Gauteng, Mpumalanga, North West and Limpopo — aims to install modern, dignified toilet facilities in schools by the end of 2024.

The project, officially kicked off at Shayindlovu Primary School in Mbuzini, near Komatipoort, marks a historic moment for the community. Mbuzini, known as the site of the tragic plane crash that claimed the life of Mozambique president Samora Machel on October 1986, 19 now stands as a beacon of progress and hope with the installation of these new facilities.

"This is a project of Rotary District 9400, through which we want to eradicate at least 120 pit latrines at schools as Rotary turns 120 in 2025," announced enthusiastic Pretorius during the launch event.

The project is backed by a coalition of organisations, including Sacta, Sesego Foundation, E-club of Eagle Canyon, Rotary Club of Pretoria Capital, Rotary Club of Charlotte Town Canada, and the Rotary International Foundation.

The new toilets, constructed by Infinite Industries using recycled plastic, are designed to operate without water, addressing the lack of running water in many schools. Twenty-one toilets have been installed at Shayindlovu — nine for boys and 12 for girls — addressing the lack of running water in many schools.

Each unit includes a wash basin, promoting hygiene among students.

"These toilets will give dignity to children and will prevent diseases. Children will be educated at the school in hygiene, as each toilet also has a wash basin for washing hands after use of the toilets,“ said Pretorius.

The school's 500 children will benefit immensely from this project, their lives transformed, and their dignity restored with access to safe and hygienic toilet facilities. The swift installation process highlights the project's efficiency, with each three-toilet unit taking only three days to set up. Rotary has ensured the project's sustainability by establishing a Rotary Community Corp at the school, which will liaise with Infinite Industries for maintenance, securing the project's long-term success.

Driven by the urgent need to prevent further tragedies and improve living conditions for students, Pretorius' initiative comes after hearing heartbreaking stories of children drowning in pit latrines and the lack of proper ablution facilities. Pretorius’s concept document outlines the broader vision, which aims to eliminate pit latrines in approximately 5,000 schools across South Africa.

With Rotary celebrating its 120th anniversary in February 2025, the goal is to replace pit latrines at 120 schools within the district during 2024-2025.

These new facilities feature Urine Diversion Dry Toilet technology, a sustainable solution used in Sweden for over two decades. The system includes a micro flush function for urine and a container that processes faeces into soil conditioner using solar-driven or electrical technology.

This innovative approach ensures that waste is managed efficiently and environmentally.

The project addresses sanitation and focuses on various Rotary areas, including water and sanitation, disease prevention, community economic development, and environmental support.

By using recycled materials and empowering local communities, the project promises to uplift school environments and restore dignity to countless students.

With an approximate cost of R 125,000 per unit, which includes the structure, plumbing, and installation, the initiative represents a significant investment in the future of South Africa's youth.

Despite the challenges, Pretorius and her team are determined to see this project through, creating hope and fostering a sense of pride and dignity in school communities.

As the project gains momentum, Rotary District 9400 looks forward to expanding the initiative to other districts in South Africa, ensuring that every child has access to safe and dignified sanitation facilities.

Pretoria News