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Eight years after Michael Komape’s death, we visit Limpopo schools to see if their toilets have improved | News24


  • Most colleges within the Mopani District in Limpopo nonetheless have unhygienic and harmful pit bogs.
  • A court docket ruling final yr ordered the provincial authorities to take steps to get rid of pit bogs from colleges.
  • We visited a number of colleges within the Mopani District to search out out about their bogs.

Parents within the Mopani District in Limpopo say they’ve given up hope that the provincial schooling division will set up secure and hygienic bogs at their kids’s colleges.

Last yr, the High Court in Limpopo handed down judgment within the “Michael Komape trial”, compelling the state to supply a listing of colleges with pit bogs, together with plans to eradicate it inside 90 days and to report each six months on progress.

Michael Komape was 5 years outdated when he drowned in a pit rest room at his college close to Polokwane in 2014. His dying triggered an outrage and put using pit bogs in some 1 500 colleges throughout the province beneath scrutiny.

Earlier this month, we visited major and excessive colleges in Mpepule, Ga-Abel, Ga-Kgapane, Madibeng, Moohokoni and Lekgawereng. All nonetheless use pit latrines.

Open pit bogs at Mahekgwe major college.

Mahekgwe

At Mahekgwe Primary School, close to Bolobedu, learners share three pit bogs and 7 cellular bogs. The pit bogs are uncovered.

“We tried so many times to speak to the Department of Education to assist us to close these open pits. I just hope nothing bad happens one day because we are dealing with young children,” mentioned the principal, Shadrack Moshia.

He mentioned the varsity had 100 learners and 4 lecturers.

Rosina Thele, whose grandchild is in Grade 4, mentioned it felt as if the federal government had forgotten about learners in Mahekgwe.

The college is dilapidated, the roof is rusting and home windows are damaged. Meals for learners are cooked in a shack.

GroundUp

One of 4 pit bogs utilized by each girls and boys at Mohookone major college. There had been faeces and urine on the seats and ground of the stalls.

Mohookone

At Mohookone Primary School, there have been 4 pit bogs utilized by each women and boys. There had been faeces and urine on the seats and flooring of the stalls.

“These toilets were built by the community years back. The children have been using them for years and we have no choice … New toilets are still being built as you can see,” mentioned the principal, Frank Itswene, pointing to a development web site on the grounds.

School governing physique chairperson Eddie Machete accused provincial officers and MEC Polly Boshielo of “failing us because these are not good toilets for children”.

GroundUp

Five cellular bogs at Masokisi major college delivered in 2020 in response to an instruction beneath the nationwide State of Disaster rules to mitigate the unfold of Covid.

Masokisi

Masokisi Primary School has 98 learners who share two pit bogs and 5 rental cellular bogs.

A mum or dad, Modjadji Kapa, requested: “Why can’t our government just build our children flushing toilets?

“When they introduced cellular bogs, we thought they’d be constructing correct bogs quickly, but it surely’s been two years.”

READ | More than R300m spent in last 3 years to eradicate pit toilets at schools

Most of the mobile toilets at the schools we visited were only delivered in 2020, in response to an instruction under the national State of Disaster regulations to mitigate Covid infections and improve hygiene at schools.

Groundup

The top of a normal chair seat was cut out and used as the toilet seat for a pit toilet at Mpepule Primary in Lekgwareng, Limpopo.

Lekgwareng

We were told the department built pit toilets at Lekgwareng Primary School and Mpepule Primary School when it built the schools in early 2000.

At Lekgwareng, there are four pit toilets for girls and four for boys. The toilets for boys are without stalls.

At Mpepule, one of the toilets had a normal chair, which had been cut to be used as a toilet seat. The seat was covered in faeces.

At Matarapane High School, the toilets, built by the community, were in a bad state. A senior teacher, who asked to remain anonymous, told us the poor sanitation at the school was a health risk. The seats are dirty and bricks are used to keep some of the toilet seats in place.

Civil society’s fight against pit toilets

SECTION27 has been in a long legal battle with the state over its plans to eradicate pit toilets in schools. The organisation said the government’s most recent plan to replace these toilets appears promising.

The organisation had previously argued in court that the state’s plans were not clear and were inconsistent with the basic norms and standards for school infrastructure.

“I’m sadly unable to share the plan with you at this second. We are analysing it and can launch our personal report subsequent week,” said Motheo Brodie of SECTION27.

“It’s extraordinarily regarding that, in 2022, learners nonetheless have to make use of unsafe and undignified college sanitation. Pit bogs pose a deadly threat to the lives, security and well being of learners at our colleges,” he said.

The department had previously stated that it would be able to do away with pit toilets by 2031. The department has until the end of June to submit a progress report.

GroundUp

An exhibit showing school children who have died in pit latrines was put up outside the Limpopo High Court in August 2021. Archive photo: Ciaran Ryan

Education department

GroundUp first contacted provincial education spokesperson, Tidimalo Chuene, on 6 June to ask about its reports to the court on progress to do away with pit toilets at schools.

On 7 June, she said: “I want an extension on the deadline to reply. There is info that I’m nonetheless imagined to obtain from our infrastructure workforce. I’ll reply as quickly as I obtain it.”

Following several calls and messages, Chuene promised again on 13 June to respond “as quickly as attainable”.

Our attempts to get comment since then have been ignored.

According to a spokesperson for the national education department, Terence Khala, there are 3 701 public schools in the province.

He explained that schools are divided into three categories:

  • Priority one schools have “inappropriate sanitation” and either have no appropriate toilets or there may be inappropriate toilets that should be demolished;
  • Priority two schools have “insufficient sanitation”, which means they either have some appropriate toilets, a number of the toilets don’t work or there may be inappropriate toilets that should be demolished; and
  • Priority three schools have “compliant sanitation”, with a number of toilets that may need refurbishment or there may be inappropriate toilets that should be demolished.

Khala said the province has 380 schools in Priority one, 1 798 in Priority two and 1 523 schools in Priority three.

Khala said that, of the Priority one schools, 158 had already completed sanitation projects; 337 had been completed for Priority two; and 902 for Priority three.

The national department did not answer detailed questions about the toilets at the schools we visited, but said that R140 million had been allocated to Limpopo in the 2022/2023 financial year for the construction of new toilets.

Ezekiel Kekana is an Open Society Foundation Fellow at Wits University.


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