Toilets from hell for village school children

Pupils at Malatse Secondary School at Lefiso village, Mpumalanga, peer over a collapsed wall of the rickety toilets building at the school built in 1974 by the community.
Pupils at Malatse Secondary School at Lefiso village, Mpumalanga, peer over a collapsed wall of the rickety toilets building at the school built in 1974 by the community.
Image: Thulani Mbele

Pupils at Malatse Secondary School in Mpumalanga dread answering the call of nature, because they never know if they will come back alive

Such is the state of disrepair the school's toilets have fallen into that parents call them "deathtraps".

Parent and school governing body member Nancy Mbambo told Sowetan this week that pupils were not only subjected to the indignity of using such poor toilets, but they were also constantly faced with danger.

"It is scary that they (pupils) have to learn under these conditions. It is also humiliating for them," Mbambo said.

Most of the boys' toilets structure has collapsed, while the girls' toilets have a gaping hole on the floor.

When Sowetan arrived at the school in Lefiso village, 132km north of Pretoria, boys had lined up along the school fence, relieving themselves during a morning break.

The poor state of sanitation mirrors that of schools in this and other provinces, a situation that has seen the Department of Basic Education hauled before courts to improve them.

The cases by education lobby groups became widely known when public interest law centre Section27 took up Michael Komape's case after the 6-year-old pupil fell into a pit latrine and died in 2014.

Last month, Lumka Mkethwa, 5, died in a similarly horrible manner in Bizana, Eastern Cape.

This week, Komape's family was left disappointed after the Limpopo High Court in Polokwane dismissed his family's R2-million damages claim for emotional shock and grief.

The high court instead ordered the provincial and national departments of education to pay R6 000 each to Komape's siblings for future counselling sessions.

At Malatse Secondary, Kgashane Maphalla, 42, who matriculated from the school in 1996, said the dignity of pupils was being undermined by the lack of basic sanitation.

"Our parents attended that school and used those toilets... We have made the noise and the matter is not getting attention," he said.

Jasper Zwane, Mpumalanga department of education spokesman, said they were going to instal a waterless toilet system at the school.

"The system is best suited for the area because of the challenge of running water," Zwane said.

He said the system used an evaporation and dehydration process that requires no pipes, drainage or flushing systems.

Pupils at the school were instructed by principal Daniel Kgobane not to speak to Sowetan during our team's visit.

Jackson Malatjie, EFF chief whip at the Dr JS Moroka municipality in Siyabuswa, said the pupil's sanitation situation at the school built by the community was a painful disregard for their rights but said theirs was not an isolated case.

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