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Supporting access to clean water as a basic human right

by Tia

On 21 March every year, South Africans gather to commemorate Human Rights Day as a painful reminder of the sacrifices that accompanied the struggle for the attainment of democracy in South Africa. Human Rights Day further affirms the country’s commitment to upholding human rights for all its citizens. It is a day to reflect on the progress made in advancing human rights and to recommit to the ongoing struggle against discrimination and injustice that may still prevail in the country.

Today South Africans from all walks of life enjoy a comprehensive set of human rights and principles, such as equality before the law, respect for human dignity, freedom of expression, access to justice, and freedom of association. More importantly, the Constitution also includes a range of social and economic rights, including the right to housing, health care, food, water, social security, and a clean environment.

While access to clean water is recognised as a fundamental human right in South Africa, as enshrined in the Constitution and affirmed by various legal instruments and international agreements, challenges remain, particularly in rural and economically disadvantaged communities.

Although numerous efforts have been made by the government and other stakeholders to address these challenges through various initiatives and policies, factors such as insufficient infrastructure, water pollution, and ageing infrastructure contribute to ongoing issues with access to clean water, especially in rural areas.

It is for this reason that that Trans African Concessions (TRAC) has made a conscious decision to make a meaningful impact in communities along the N4 route where it operates, particularly with regards to access to clean water by school learners from rural communities.

In 2017, TRAC adopted Thanda Primary School in Nkomazi, to transform it from an under-resourced rural school to a learning centre where learners could thrive and excel. With an impressive investment of

R6-million towards infrastructure refurbishment, the school was transformed into a well-resourced centre, complete with ablution facilities and supply of clean water. This is in addition to other world-class facilities aimed at ensuring that the 800 learners enrolled at the school receive quality education.

The school has become of TRAC’s flagship project, and a beacon of hope for communities in the Nkomazi area. Not only has the refurbishment of the school benefitted the learners in the area, but

the project had a profound effect on the community in terms of skills and enterprise development.

The school refurbishment project also resulted in the employment of skilled and unskilled labour from the local community.

, TRAC’s Executive Manager for Human Resources and Corporate Social Investment Adri Fourie, said while TRAC was committed to improving the quality of school facilities in under-resourced communities, TRAC was equally committed to ensuring that learners also enjoyed basic human rights such as access to clean water.

She said, “Access to clean and safe water significantly enhances the quality of learning at poor schools by addressing fundamental health and hygiene needs. Reliable access to clean water ensures that students remain hydrated, reducing fatigue and improving cognitive function, thereby enhancing their ability to focus and concentrate in class. Moreover, proper sanitation facilities promote good hygiene practices, preventing waterborne illnesses that often lead to absenteeism among students and teachers. With improved health and reduced illness-related absences, students can consistently attend classes, leading to better academic performance and overall educational outcomes”.

Ms Fourie says that ensuring access to clean water for all South Africans, particularly in rural and poor communities, is not only a legal obligation but also a moral imperative. “TRAC will continue to support all these initiatives, to ensure that we can all celebrate Human Rights Day with pride and clear conviction, knowing that our efforts are improving people’s lives,” she said.

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