By Jacques Smalle MPL, DA Provincial Spokesperson on Education:
The DA is still appalled by the Department of Basic Education’s denial to take full responsibility on the death of a six year old grade 1 learner, Michael Komape, who died after falling into a pit toilet at Mahlodumela primary school in Chebeng outside Polokwane in January 2014.
According to news reports, the department has distanced itself from the incident, arguing that the pit toilets were fit and safe for human use. The DA is concerned that if the department is now refusing to take the blame. Whose fault is it?
The department was responding to the R3 million lawsuit filed by parents against the department. The DA has seen the pit toilets before they were demolished by the angry parents and confirms that they were not fit for human use.
The DA believes that learners were risking their lives when using the school’s toilets as the corrugated iron structures were on the verge of collapsing while some excavated holes were just been used by learners without toilets. Denying to take full responsibility is a clear indication that the department is disregarding its core mandate and putting the lives of our learners at risk.
By so doing, the department is infringing the rights of our learners by failing to build proper schools and sanitation facilities especially in the remote areas of Limpopo. It is unacceptable that learners are forced to use hazardous ablution facilities, with risk of injury or serious infection.
The DA filed a complaint with the Human Right Commission (HRC) and the SAPS to probe the incident a day after the tragedy. We are still waiting for a compressive response on the investigations as well as the recommendation from both institutions. We will follow up on the matter and get to the bottom of this.
Where the DA governs, school learners enjoy the highest access to flush toilets of any province at 98,63%. Learners in Limpopo deserve the same level of delivery as the Western Cape.
The DA will write to Education MEC, Ishmael Kgetjepe, and ask him to provide us with a full report including steps that were taken as well as measures that were put in place to improve sanitation facilities in this school and other schools across the province.
Failure to do that within seven days, the DA will have no option but to write to the Portfolio Committee Chairperson on Education, to summon the MEC to account for this unfortunate incident and the reasons why the department is distancing itself from this issue.