The SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) has accused the Department of Education of commercialising the free sanitary pads initiative in KwaZulu-Natal.
The union’s KZN provincial secretary, Nomarashiya Caluza, told journalists on Thursday that reports from the ground indicated gross mismanagement of the project.
She said schools were running out of storage space for the pads because of over-delivery.
Caluza also called the funding of the pads into question. She said funding was initially R20-million, but that the department had been approved for R109-million, a jump in cost she said should be investigated.
Earlier this week, KZN Education MEC Mthandeni Dlungwane said the department had picked up “a few concerns” regarding the initiative.
“All concerns that we are picking will be subjected to a thorough investigation.”
According to Caluza trucks currently go to schools and deliver sanitary pads stock without checking the supply at the school.
‘It’s like boys menstruate too’
She added that audits at schools were also not done because pads were over-supplied, even at primary school level.
“Most of the young girls start menstruating by Grade 8. But you do have special cases where girls start at an earlier age. However, we find that the supply to primary and secondary schools are the same. It’s like boys menstruate too. At this point, they are delivering enough for boys and girls.”
Caluza said the quality of the pads also came into question.
“We have heard complaints that these pads don’t stay in place. They keep moving in the young child’s underwear. Because of over-delivery, we also have reports of young boys using the pads as shin guards when playing soccer.”
While Sadtu questioned the department’s role in the initiative, it still felt that the sanitary products were necessary.
“We are not saying we do not want this for our children. But it is not happening properly. There is a gross commercialisation of menstruation. They are not being used as intended,” she said.
Not every female KZN schoolgoing pupil needed the pads, Caluza pointed out.
“Some parents can indeed afford to buy the pads for their children. We have to take that into consideration.”
Department spokesperson Kwazi Mthethwa said that the department sourced the funds from National Treasury.
He said the initial project was funded for R20-million but only catered for 500 000 pupils.
“We have increased the number of pupils targeted to just under one million. Also, when we had the R20-million budget, we realised we had a small shortfall, therefore the budget increase.”
Mthethwa added that over-supply was an issue at rural schools because some did not have the infrastructure required to store the pads.
So far, less than 10 schools had written to the department about the pads.
“They have said they do not need it. We are working on retrieving the pads from those schools and redistributing to poorer areas.”
He added that the department would investigate any corruption related to the pads.
“We are going to investigate and look at over-supply from all angles. Who knows, maybe something may have gone wrong in our systems. We don’t know. Issues related to corrupt activities will be thoroughly investigated.” — News24