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Johannesburg - The SA Human Rights Commission will investigate sanitation in schools across Limpopo after a Grade R pupil fell into a pit toilet and died.
“The commission has decided to launch an own-initiative investigation around this matter,” spokesman Isaac Mangena said in a statement on Wednesday.
The commission was aware of many other schools in the province that still used pit toilets.
Six-year-old Michael Komape died when he fell into a pit toilet at the Mahlodimela Primary School, in Chedeng, on Monday.
Mangena said the boy's death was a shock and a disappointment.
“We call on the department of basic education to move with necessary speed to ensure that all pit toilets in schools are eradicated.”
The commission suggested the use of temporary sanitation measures while long-term plans were rolled out. It hoped that officials found guilty of negligence would be brought to book.
Public interest law centre Section27 said Komape's death highlighted the unsafe conditions in which children across Limpopo were taught.
“We urge the national department of basic education and the Limpopo department of education to take urgent steps to ensure that toilets in all schools in Limpopo are sanitary and safe,” spokesman Mark Heywood said in a statement.
It challenged 12 construction companies that had admitted to bid-rigging to build school toilets in Limpopo.
“It would be a small measure of recompense for these companies to immediately help in fixing the problem of school toilets.”
The ANC Youth League in Limpopo was shocked that opposition parties had seen an opportunity to score cheap political points by flocking to the school following the boy's death.
Spokeswoman Onicca Moloi said the tragedy happened three months after the education department launched the rural schools sanitation programme. It aimed to provide water and sanitation facilities to over 1000 schools in the province before the end of this year.
“Mahlodumela Primary School, where the late Komape was a pupil, is earmarked to benefit from the programme,” Moloi said.
The ANCYL called on the department to speed up the programme and treat it with the same urgency as the textbooks debacle.