This document represents a preliminary exploration of school sanitation in South Africa as part of the study titled Evaluating the design of existing rural school sanitation infrastructure and developing a model and guidelines for optimal design which is being conducted by Partners in Development on behalf of the Water Research Commission. This document explores the background and status of school sanitation in South Africa and its legal environment and looks at best practice for the design of facilities and choice of systems and technologies. What this exploration revealed was the fact that the failure or success of infrastructure is fundamentally linked to the needs, resources, attitudes and beliefs of management and the users of school sanitation, and that any attempt to improve the status quo must come from a perspective of a “total solution” which addresses all of these elements coherently. While this document touches on how infrastructure interfaces with user needs and the implications for management, a careful review of models for management and user education is planned as the study progresses. It is clear that addressing these three elements – infrastructure, management and education together is vital in order to expect that any intervention might succeed.

We have produced this handbook for the Water Research Commission as part of a research study titled: Evaluating the design of existing rural school sanitation infrastructure and developing a model and guidelines for optimal design.

This model provides the tools necessary for setting up an effective programme for managing school sanitation systems. The tools can be modified and developed to meet the needs of your school. This model is based on 4 principles: The model starts by addressing the knowledge, values and vision that address the issue of WHY sanitation should be a priority. It moves on to look at WHAT needs to be done, WHO should be responsible and HOW toilets can be managed effectively on a day to day basis.

In 2014 a study was initiated by the South African Water Research Commission to evaluate school sanitation across three provinces: Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape. The purpose was to attempt to compile a fair picture of the status of toilets and gain insights into key issues and needs which need to be understood and addressed in order for school sanitation not to fail. Following a review of guidance and other literature addressing school sanitation from around the world, 130 schools were visited. Principals and cleaners were interviewed and focus groups and surveys were conducted with learners regarding practices, perceptions and attitudes around school sanitation. In addition, visual assessments of school sanitation facilities were conducted by the research teams. The insights yielded from this data set have been combined with best practices identified in the literature review to produce this guideline.