Child drowns in school pit latrine‚ again

15 March 2018 - 14:45
By Andre Jurgens
Latrine toilet
Image: 123RF/Scott Biales Latrine toilet

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga says it is “completely unacceptable” for a five-year-old child to have drowned in a school pit latrine in the Eastern Cape.

Lumka Mthethwa from the Luna Primary School in Bizana‚ in the Eastern Cape‚ fell into a pit latrine and died on Tuesday.

“The death of a child in such an undignified manner is completely unacceptable‚ and incredibly disturbing. I would like to send my sincere condolences to the family of our Lumka Mthethwa‚ 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‚” said Motshekga in a statement on Thursday.

Democratic Alliance MPL Edmund van Vuuren said the tragedy should serve as a “wake up call” to the minister and provincial education MEC “to sort out the infrastructure mess at schools in the Eastern Cape”.

“How many more children must die needlessly‚ how many court cases must be held‚ how many more of our children will be left in the poverty trap because they are not given the benefits of a decent education‚” asked Van Vuuren.

Police are investigating the circumstances around the death of the child and counselling services have been provided at the school.

The tragedy echoes that of five-year-old Michael Komape who fell into a pit latrine at Mahlodumela Primary School in Polokwane in 2014. His family has been embroiled in a protracted legal battle‚ suing the state for more than R3-million.

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Equal Education asked the High Court in Bisho this week to compel Motshekga to fix flaws in her department’s rules for school infrastructure‚ which it said allowed government to shirk its duties. “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 on Thursday in reaction to the latest death.

“When a tragedy like this occurs it makes us more resolute of the continued need for the Accelerated School Infrastructure initiative (ASIDI) so that we can continue to fast-track these schools that are in desperate need of infrastructure and make them safe havens for our children.”

The department of basic education has introduced a 12% minimum budget for each province to be dedicated to maintenance. This was done to compel provinces to set aside funding for maintenance as some were not budgeting for it and allowing schools to become dilapidated.