Section27: COVID-19 demonstrated urgent need for safer sanitation in SA schools

Half a decade after 5-year-old Michael Komape drowned in a school pit toilet, those who fought for the family to find justice, like Section27, said that much more still needed to be done.

FILE: A pit toilet. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - With Thursday marking World Toilet Day, Section27 said that the coronavirus pandemic had demonstrated the urgent need for hygienic and safe sanitation in South African schools.

Section27 represented the family of five-year-old Michael Komape, who fell into a pit toilet at his primary school in Limpopo in 2014.

The child drowned in human excrement.

Last year, the family finally received justice when the Supreme Court of Appeal ordered the state to pay them R1.4 million in damages for the emotional shock and grief they suffered.

The Polokwane High Court concluded that the failure of government to provide safe and decent sanitation resulted in the violation of rights of pupils in Limpopo.

The COVID-19 pandemic has, in a way, again highlighted how government has neglected children's basic rights to sanitation.

At the start of the year, as the country responded to the urgent need to prepare schools for COVID-19 health and safety protocols, temporary solutions were put in place to deal with the immediate crisis.

Half a decade after Komape drowned in a school pit toilet, those who fought for the family to find justice, like Section27, said that much more still needed to be done.

Spokesperson Nontsikelelo Mpulo said: “They obtained mobile toilets for over 3,000 schools for three months. These are temporary solutions; we need sustainable solutions for safe sanitation in this country.”

Section27 is preparing to take the Limpopo Education Department back to court either this year or in 2021 to implement the structural order handed down by the court to ensure safe sanitation at schools.

Download the EWN app to your iOS or Android device.