A 5-year-old girl has died after falling into a pit toilet at a primary school in the Eastern Cape, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga confirmed on Thursday.
Little Viwe Jali died at the Luna Primary School in Bizana on Tuesday, although it was not yet clear what the exact cause of her death was.
She is understood to have been in Grade R.
"The death of a child in such an undignified manner is completely unacceptable, and incredibly disturbing," said Motshekga in a statement.
"I would like to send my sincere condolences to the family of our Viwe Jali, who passed away tragically on Tuesday. I cannot begin to know the trauma the parents are experiencing, it is truly a tragic incident and my sympathies are with them."
Mzamba police were investigating the circumstances surrounding her death.
Counselling was also being offered to staff and pupils at the school.
The incident was similar to one at a school outside Polokwane, where 5-year-old Michael Komape drowned in a pit toilet in 2014.
R3.5bn to be cut from budget
His family went to court to claim damages from the State.
The national education department said on Thursday that it was doing "everything in its capacity" to address backlogs timeously by prioritising unsafe structures and those without decent sanitation, electricity and water.
It said it had made significant strides in this regard together with provincial education departments, but that budget cuts posed a threat to the provision of much needed infrastructure.
"Words cannot express the pain I personally feel at the loss of a young life in this horrific way. To know that as a sector we have not been able to address these infrastructure issues fast enough, for a number of reasons, breaks my heart," said Motshekga.
According to the department, 5 225 maintenance projects are underway around the country. The Eastern Cape has already exhausted its maintenance budget.
The department said that despite progress made with the accelerated school infrastructure delivery initiative, more than R3.5bn would be cut in the next three years from the initiative's budget.
The cuts were part of a government-wide reprioritisation of funds, the department explained.