Limpopo - When Rosina Komape peeped into the dilapidated pit toilet at her son’s school, the first thing she saw was her son Michael’s hand.
“If my child had not used that toilet, he would not have died,” the emotional mother said on Wednesday.
The 6-year-old boy, who had started Grade 1 at Mahlodumela Primary School in Chebeng village outside Polokwane, Limpopo, last Monday, drowned inside the school’s pit latrine a week later.
It seemed that the rusty, corroded iron sheet that served as the pit toilet seat gave in while Michael was using it. The rusty seat and its white plastic lid fell in with him.
The decayed ablution facility, which was demolished following the tragic incident on Monday, is surrounded by long, unkempt grass, and all around it are other equally dangerous latrines.
To get to the toilets where little Michael met his fate, pupils have to walk past nine other uncovered toilet holes.
The third toilet structure within the premises, the only one in a decent state, is reserved for teachers. It has four cubicles.
Michael’s mother blames teachers for making children use the dilapidated toilet.
“He was a cute, smart boy. On that day he was in a jolly mood when he left for school,” she said.
On the fateful day, Komape said, teachers had refused to let her search the toilets after she had been informed of her son’s disappearance.
“They said there was no way he could have gone to the toilet,” she said.
Komape added that she had then left the school to look for Michael at his grandfather’s home and at a local creche.
“When I came out of the creche, a boy from his school told me that Michael had fallen into the toilet.”
Komape said she rushed back to the school, where she discovered his body.
The boy’s father, James, said his son experienced another tragedy in September – he was hit by a car and spent three months in hospital.
“He was all right. That is why he had started going to school,” said James, a local community activist.
He is founder of the non-profit organisation Montshepetsa Boshego ke Moleboga Bosele, which is facilitating the building of a library and the erection of a sports ground in the village.
“Already we have books donated to us by the University of Limpopo. We are now hoping to secure funds to build a library,” said the unemployed father-of-seven.
Limpopo Department of Education spokesman Phuti Seloba said the department had launched an investigation into Michael’s death and would help the family with funeral arrangements.
He said his department was already implementing a R400 million comprehensive school sanitation programme to eradicate pit toilets in all schools.
“About 600 projects have been completed and 500-plus are still outstanding,” said Seloba.
He added that temporary interventions would be made at Michael’s school.
“From tomorrow, we are putting up about 20 mobile flushing toilets with the help of the national department,” said Seloba.