14 November 2017

South Africa: No Apology From Department for Death of Boy Who Drowned in Pit Toilet

Rosina Komape, the mother of Michael Komape, who was 5 years old when he died after falling into a pit toilet in 2014, has to this day had no apology or assistance from the government.

The Limpopo High Court on Monday heard this testimony as Rosina was called as the first witness in the family's bid to claim for damages from the national Department of Basic Education and the Limpopo Department of Education following Michael's death.

Michael, who was a Grade R pupil at Mahlodumela Primary School in Chebeng village, fell into a pit toilet and drowned on January 20, 2014.

Section27 attorney Bhavna Ramjee, who is also representing the Komape family, told News24 that Rosina broke down in court as she gave an account of the day the school phoned her to inform her that they couldn't find Michael.

"She went around the village looking for him and found a learner who took her to the school toilet where she saw Michael's hand sticking out," Ramjee said.

Ramjee added that Rosina testified about the lack of assistance for the family following the child's death.

Rosina also testified in court that while the school had received donations, such as furniture, following her son's death, the family had never received any assistance and no meetings were arranged. The family never even received an apology, she said.

'Shameful'

The court heard that the Komape's would be pursuing a claim for just under a R1m for shock and trauma that the family suffered, another for damage to their constitutional right to dignity, safety and security amounting to R2m as well as a claim for expenses incurred.

Ramjee said government had not provided counselling for the family.

"The incident was tragic, horrific and avoidable," Section27 said in a statement released prior to the start of court proceedings.

"Michael's death was caused by a continued disregard for his safety. The state, from senior people such as the minister of basic education and the MEC for education in Limpopo, all the way through to the principal and teachers at Mahlodumela, violated Michael's rights to dignity, life and safety."

"They also breached their duties owed to parents to protect their children. When parents send their children to school every day they hand over their trust to ensure that their children will be safe and their needs met."

Section27 and Basic Education For All have since 2012 been drawing the national and provincial education departments' attention to the unsafe, unhygienic and undignified state of sanitation in Limpopo schools, the organisation continued.

"Today, the majority of the 1.7 million Limpopo learners are forced to attend their lessons in inappropriate and unsafe infrastructure, using unsafe and unhygienic toilets, and without all of their basic learning materials such as textbooks and furniture. This is shameful."

News24

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