KZN Education Department lauded for sanitary towel initiative

KZN Education Department lauded for sanitary towel initiative

The Kwa-Zulu Natal Education Department has launched a new programme that aims to distribute free sanitary pads to roughly 3 000 schools in the province. 

KZN Education sanitary pad initiative

Kwa-Zulu Natal Education Department spokesperson, Muzi Mahlambi, says the programme aims to curb the high dropout rate as a result of menstruation and not having proper sanitation. 

''Research, academics and many ordinary people have been raising this issue with us saying that listen, our girls are losing a minimum of 32 days a year when they're experiencing their biological periods,'' says Mahlambi.

Mahlambi says the programme particularly targets girls from poor families and child-headed households, where there is often a choice between buying bread and sanitary towels.

Mahlambi adds that even though the department has previously received sanitary towel donations from individuals, companies and activists, it hasn't been enough, prompting the province's Education MEC Mthandeni Dlungwana to initiate this issue into one of his flagship programmes.

ALSO READ: KZN Education rolls out initiative to keep young girls at school

''A sum of R50 million for this financial year, which ends in March, was put aside for this kind of programme which we see increasing over the year,'' Mahlambi says.

''We launched the programme in November last year, but because of the closure of schools [during the December holidays] we said the distribution [of sanitary pads] this month was going to be in earnest, that is why a lot of you [media publications] are picking it up as if it's something we are only starting now. What we are doing now is a roll-out kind of programme because schools are now in operation, so we are sending them [sanitary towels] to schools so that girls that are in need are going to be benefiting'', says Mahlambi.

Mahlambi adds that the province views the programme as part of approaching education holistically, with a focus on the well-being of learners.

Meanwhile, Gauteng Education spokesperson, Oupa Bodibe, says they collaborated with the Department of Social Development when they piloted a similar programme known as ''dignity packs''.

Bodibe says the programme has been going since 2011. However, he admits its difficult to obtain accurate statistics of how many learners in Gauteng miss school because of menstruation and their inability to affords sanitary towels.

''There is no accurate statistics because remember this is very much a private matter and learners are quite reluctant to indicate the reasons why they don't come to school so we don't collect statistics'', says Bodibe. 

Last year, Members of Parliament (MPs) requested National Treasury to remove VAT on sanitary towels, insisting that the call is long overdue. However, Treasury told MPs that instead of exempting VAT on sanitary pads, government departments should budget for them and give them away for free to members of the public, especially at schools.

According to a UNESCO report, one-in-ten girls in Sub-Saharan Africa miss school during their menstrual cycle, equating to as much as twenty percent of a given school year.

Show's Stories