President Cyril Ramaphosa will unveil his plan to eradicate pit toilets at schools on Tuesday. Thousands of learners in the rural areas of the Eastern Cape still use pit toilets.
The President ordered an audit of all schools with unsafe structures earlier this year after five-year-old Lumka Mkhethwa died after falling into a pit toilet at a school in Mbizana.
The province has the highest number of schools with unsafe toilets.
The situation is dire at Majavu Secondary School, the toilets are filthy and unsafe. Only three of the 13 toilets at the Majavu Secondary School are in working order.
Learners say they have no choice but to use pit toilets which pose a threat to their health and safety: “There are no doors. The toilets are dirty and they are not safe. When we are on periods others pupils are here, in front of you, while you relieve yourself. It’s bad.”
Another learner says that alternative plans are made: “As boys we end up going to the bush or near the fence to pee because the queues become to long for us to wait and even so it’s a risk to use these toilets.”
The chairperson of the organisation, 21 schools under Luna Circuit, Mthandeki Swana says they hope the plan will change the lives of learners in the rural areas.
“This is just ridiculous for a child to die in a pit toilet because if we were using a water system such an incident should have not happened. We are very grateful that the president will be walking around, checking on these things, or dealing with them in parliament or wherever they meet with other ministers of the government.”
In 2017, a pathologist, who conducted a post-mortem on five-year-old Michael Komape after his body was retrieved from a pit toilet he drowned in Limpopo testified in the High Court in Polokwane.
Doctor Matlala told the court that the Grade R learner died due to lack of oxygen after inhaling foreign substances.
The incident happened at Mahlodumela Primary School in Chebeng village outside Polokwane in 2014.
He says the child suffered severe brain swelling and his stomach was bloated. The body was also covered in maggots and bloody froth came out of the mouth due to a rupturing of a small blood vessel.
Matlala adds that Michael’s feet were wrinkled as a result of being submerged underwater for hours.
The Polokwane High Court in April dismissed the R3 million constitutional and grief claims by Michael’s family.