One in eight Gauteng school buildings contain asbestos, exposing hundreds of thousands of pupils and some 10,000 teachers to serious health risks.
If these asbestos structures become dilapidated, fibres are released into the air and if they are inhaled, can cause deadly respiratory diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma.
South Africa’s Department of Education adopted regulations in 2013 stipulating that all schools made of asbestos had to be replaced by 29 November 2016.
The Gauteng education department (GDE), which is responsible for the province’s school infrastructure, identified 29 asbestos schools for replacement, but not one of them was replaced by the deadline.
What’s more, the 29 schools currently earmarked for replacement are just a small part of the problem. According to the GDE’s own information, there are more than 200 schools in the province with asbestos structures. But the list of asbestos schools keeps changing, and it is unclear if it is complete, and if the asbestos structures are in good condition.