The Democratic Alliance (DA) says it will visit schools across the country that still use pit latrines, this after the department of basic education (DBE) confirmed to the portfolio committee on basic education last week that there were currently 3 532 pit toilets at schools across the country.
Yesterday, the Polokwane High Court dismissed an R2-million civil claim by the family of Michael Komape, a five-year-old boy who died when he fell into a pit toilet at Mahlodumela Primary in 2014.
Last month, five-year-old Lumka Mketwa fell and drowned in a pit latrine at her school, Luna Primary, in Bizana, Eastern Cape.
The DA says the visits will be conducted to determine “what can be done to ensure that no learner ever has to be afraid to use a toilet”.
The party said the DBE estimated it would cost about R7.8 billion to address the sanitation backlog at schools across the country.
“Shockingly, the budget for school infrastructure has been cut by R3.6 billion – when this amount could have met nearly half this need,” DA shadow deputy minister of basic education Nomsa Marchesi said.
Handing down the judgment yesterday, the Polokwane High Court ordered the national and Limpopo department of education (LED) to replace all pit latrines in the province under the supervision of the court.
The judge ordered that the national and LED must submit to the court an audited list of all the schools using pit latrines in the province as well as present costs and timelines so the court could provide oversight.
In a statement noting the judgment in the Michael Komape case, the DBE said as a result of a directive issued last month by President Cyril Ramaphosa that addressing sanitation infrastructure backlogs must be accelerated, an audit of all school toilets across the country is currently under way.
“A comprehensive costs plan will be given to the president for consideration within the set timelines,” the DBE statement reads.
The DBE said it continued to sympathise with Michael’s family and committed to complying with the order by the Polokwane High Court.
Meanwhile, advocacy group Section 27, on Monday, slammed the court judgment dismissing the claim by Michael Komape’s family, saying it was studying the judgment and might appeal the ruling.