Section27 is dragging the national and provincial education departments to court for a second round in the case it pursued following the tragic 2014 drowning of learner Michael Komape, pictured, in his school’s toilet. Picture: Supplied.
Section27 is dragging the national and provincial education departments to court for a second round in the case it pursued following the tragic 2014 drowning of learner Michael Komape, pictured, in his school’s toilet. Picture: Supplied.

Another court showdown over Limpopo’s pit toilets schools looming

By Bongani Nkosi Time of article published May 4, 2021

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Johannesburg - Another court showdown over pit toilets in Limpopo’s schools is looming, this time with civil society gunning for an order to compel authorities to produce a credible eradication plan.

Section27 was dragging the national and provincial education departments to court for a second round in the case it pursued following the tragic 2014 drowning of learner Michael Komape in his school’s toilet.

Set for a hearing at Polokwane High Court this month, the case will determine whether the education authorities were complying with an order granted on April 23, 2018. Section27 and Equal Education, as amicus curiae, will seek to convince the court that the departments were non-compliant with the order.

The 2018 order directed the departments to supply to all schools secure and safe toilets and submit to the court a detailed plan with period estimates of when the pit toilets would be eradicated. In its papers filed at the court, Section27 argued that the education departments had done a shoddy job on the plan.

“The defendants have failed to place before the court a clear, comprehensive, coherent programme for the eradication of unsafe and inadequate sanitation in Limpopo schools,” said the organisation.

The departments’ purported plan indicated that in some schools, such as Mokwasela Primary School, a pit toilets eradication project could be completed by as late as 2031, Section27 noted.

Mokwasela enrolled 507 learners and had eight pit toilets. Section27 said the plan did not provide information on what the “project” entailed.

The Mokwasela example was one of many that convinced Section27 that the departments’ plan was shoddy. “As such, there is no single, coherent, comprehensive programme before the court which can be assessed against the requirements of reasonableness,” the organisation argued.

The court will also hear that the departments failed to avail adequate financial resources for the provision of safe and appropriate sanitation facilities. This played out while it was proven that pit toilets were inherently unsafe, especially for young learners, Section27 said in papers.

A number of pupils have died, and one ended up being disabled, after falling into school pit latrines before and after the Komape tragedy.

“The tragic death of another learner, Lumka Mkethwa, on March 13, 2018 – under circumstances almost mirroring those of Michael’s death – confirms the need for pit toilets to be eradicated on an urgent basis,” Section27’s affidavit said. The organisation wanted the court to deliver an order directing Limpopo Education MEC Polly Boshielo to constitute a sanitation task team, headed by an independent expert. Acting head of department Khathutshelo Onicca Dederen, maintained her department plan was credible.

The Star

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