Dad fears for others after pit-toilet death
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Johannesburg - James Komape fears other pupils may suffer the same fate as his son if the Department of Basic Education does not act urgently to improve infrastructure in schools.
A year ago, his son, Michael, was found dead in a pit toilet at the Mahlodumela Primary School in Limpopo, where he was in a preschool class.
The corroded iron sheet that served as the pit toilet’s seat collapsed while the Grade R pupil was using it.
Department of Education Minister Angie Motshekga promised she would reveal plans five months ago for improving infrastructure at schools, but failed to do so.
“It is important the plans be released urgently because many children are suffering. Libraries are a long way away, desks are old and broken,” said Komape.
“The minister’s not releasing the plans means the standard of safety and infrastructure in schools is as it was when my son died.”
All schools are expected to meet minimum standards for infrastructure by next year, but Motshekga has yet to reveal her department’s plans to improve infrastructure in schools across the country.
The standards for infrastructure, which cover such aspects such as the minimum space to be allowed for each pupil in a classroom, toilets and electricity, were gazetted by Motshekga in November 2013.
Her plans were to have been revealed in November, but her department has failed to divulge them, despite repeated letters and an access to information request by lobby group Equal Education.
This has led Komape and Equal Education to make plans to launch protests next week to press demands that the plans be made public.
Equal Education is to stage sleep-ins outside the Department of Basic Education offices in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Gauteng on Wednesday.
“We are demanding that Motshekga stop hiding her plans for implementing Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure,” said Equal Education’s national spokeswoman, Nombulelo Nyathela.
The group had written directly to Motshekga numerous times.
“We have also now made an access to information request.
“It is wrong that we have had to resort to this.”
The department, meanwhile, has denied it has delayed revealing its plans. It says it is following procedure.
“The minister and MECs discussed the plans at the last Council of Education Ministers meeting,” said Elijah Mhlanga, a spokesman for the department.
“The plans will be published in the next few weeks. The processes needed to be followed first.”
Figures for the 2015/16 financial year show R9.4 billion has been allocated from the Education Infrastructure Grant to provinces to improve school infrastructure.
Nyathela said this was R1bn less than projected in 2013.
“We want the plans to be made public so students, teachers, parents and community members can verify whether all schools meant to be included in the plans have been.
“The pupil who fell in a pit latrine is but another tragic (example) of what it means to have inadequate school infrastructure.
“The minister must release the plans urgently to allow communities and organisations to monitor implementation effectively.”