The Eastern Cape Education MEC recently visited the school where a Grade R learner drowned in a pit-latrine and promised to build toilets.
The Education MEC in the Eastern Cape has promised to build toilets for Luna Junior Primary School in Bizana following the drowning death of five-year-old Lumka Mketwa. MEC Mandla Makupula visited the school and the family of Lumka Mketwa who died last week. Makupula said he had come for a firsthand account from the school management and learners.
“I have approved the construction of a new block of toilets for Grade R learners. I also pledge to support the last born of the deceased’s family with all the learning materials and full uniform next year in honour of the deceased,” he said.
School principal, Nkosiphendule Magidela told the visitors that he will only be happy once he sees the new structure of toilets for the kids. “In our school, we allow learners to visit the loo under supervision, this incident happened to a child who was sent to clean her dripping nose by her educator. She was never sent to the toilet. We are thankful of the visit to the family and our school by the MEC. He has been supporting us since this incident befell our school,” he said.
Father of the little girl, Vuyani Mketwa (33) said Makupula came to the family with nothing. “We want the Department of Education to investigate the death of my child. I heard that the teacher of my child sent my child to remove the mucus at the toilet. Although the MEC Makupula visited the family I am not happy at all. What makes me angry a lot is that the principal of the school did not even bother to visit the family. I am still waiting for the principal to visit the family and explain to the family about the death of my child. As the leader of the school he was supposed to visit the family a long time ago,” he said.
In a statement, Equal Education has said that all those in positions of authority are to be blamed for what happened to the Grade R learner. “Equal Education places the blame for this tragedy on Minister Motshekga, on Basic Education Director General Mathanzima Mweli, on Eastern Cape Education MEC Mandla Makupula, and on Eastern Cape Education Department Head Themba Kojana,” reads the statement.
Lumka is the second child in the country to drown in a school pit latrine. Five-year-old Michael Komape, drowned in a pit latrine in 2014. His parents are waiting for judgment in a lawsuit lodged against the basic education department at the Limpopo High Court.
According to Equal Education’s statement flush toilets are rare. According to”the latest National Education Infrastructure Management System (NEIMS January 2018), there are 37 schools in the Eastern Cape with no toilets at all. There are 1,945 Eastern Cape schools with plain pit latrines, and 2,585 with ventilated pit latrines (referred to as VIP latrines). According to the same report, there are 4,358 schools in South Africa that have only plain pit latrines as a form of toilet. Flush toilets are rare.”
Mketwa said he is happy that the MEC appointed a construction company to build a new toilet. “Although our child is not going to come back, other children from other families are going to be safe. The old toilet that swallowed my child has been locked,” he said.
Equal Education has published a list of 61 schools in the Eastern Cape that have no sanitation.