Girl, 4, found dead in pit toilet at school in Eastern Cape
A mother who went looking for her daughter after she failed to come home from school is grieving after discovering she has died.
The four-year-old child's body was found inside a pit latrine at a primary school in Glen Grey, said Eastern Cape police spokesperson W/O Majola Nkohli.
Nkohli said her mother went to the child's school after she failed to return home the previous day.
“A preliminary investigation led to the recovery of the learner's body in one of the school's pit toilets. Members from SAPS search and rescue retrieved her body.”
The circumstances of her death are under investigation. Police have opened an inquest docket.
The tragedy prompted renewed calls for the government to do more to eradicate pit toilets.
Shenilla Mohamed, executive director of Amnesty International South Africa, said: “This is deeply sad and unacceptable. This child’s death comes a week after the department of basic education (DBE) missed yet another deadline to eradicate all illegal plain pit toilets from schools.”
Pit toilets, she said, are dangerous and not only violate the right to sanitation but also the right to health, education, dignity and privacy while in some cases posing a serious risk to the right to life, all of which are enshrined in the constitution.
“The DBE must urgently provide an update on how many illegal plain pit toilets remain in schools across South Africa, and eradicate them immediately. No child’s life should be lost because of the failures and shortfalls of the department. By continuing to fail to do so, the DBE is showing total disregard for the basic human rights of learners.”
Plain pit toilets are unimproved and unventilated pit toilets.
Amnesty SA’s 2020 report, “Broken and Unequal: The state of education in South Africa”, found that at some schools, the entire school would depend on two or three plain pit toilets. The report recommended that for the right to quality, equal basic education to be realised, the government must ensure all schools have access to adequate and safe water and sanitation. This included replacing all unsafe and unsanitary plain pit toilets by the end of 2020 and eradicating all pit toilets completely by 2023.
A follow-up report in 2021, ”South Africa: Failing to learn the lessons? The impact of Covid-19 on a broken and unequal education system”, gauged the impact of Covid-19 on the education system and found the single largest cut in the 2020 supplementary budget was to the school infrastructure programme.
Earlier this month, the organisation said basic education minister Angie Motshekga previously told parliament the DBE planned to eradicate pit toilets from all schools within the 2022/23 financial year. Mohamed said while the financial year ended on February 28, there was “no word from the DBE”.
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