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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Michael Komape case: Basic Education ignored calls to fix sanitation at schools

Chester Makana

The basic education department lied to Section 27 when it was warned about the state of education in Limpopo, the advocacy group told the Limpopo High court on Tuesday.

Mark Heywood, Section 27 executive director, was battling the education crisis when the news of Michael Komape’s death broke. Through testimony in Komape’s civil litigation, came revelations of broken promises by the department.

In 2013, Section 27 alerted the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to the state of school logistics and sanitation with the hope that the crisis would be eliminated.

The problem, however, grew and was magnified when the 5-year-old fell into a pit toilet in Mahlodumela primary school in Chebeng village north-west of Polokwane.

Heywood said by then they had forwarded a list of at least 404 schools that required urgent intervention as their sanitation was on the verge of collapse.

He said some toilets had holes and others had no doors stripping pupils off their dignity.

Heywood explained that they conducted investigations on sanitation after it emerged that the department was in crisis and placed under administration per Section 100 of the constitution.

In 2011, the department was part of five provincial departments placed under administration after it exhausted its R45 Billion lion share and was subsequently denied a bailout.

Heywood’s testimony pleaded with the government to stop undermining sanitation. Because of continued dismissal of the crisis, some learners have had to relieve themselves in bushes.

“We were told yes, the department would commit to the sanitation, but this did not translate to activities in the schools,” said Heywood.

Heywood said this was because of department officials, including the Section 100 team, who disregarded agreements and commitments they made citing a lack of funds.

When the Section 100 team was brought in to assist, the department was failing to pay service providers and teachers weren’t being paid consistently.


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