'The death of a child in such an undignified manner is completely unacceptable, and incredibly disturbing.'
Advocacy organisation Section27 has accused Basic Education Minister of “crying crocodile tears” over the death of a pupil who drowned in a school’s pit toilet.
Viwe Jali, 5, from Luna Primary School in Bizana Eastern Cape fell into a pit latrine and died on Tuesday.
News of her death started circulating only on Thursday afternoon, after Motshekga sent out a statement of condolences to the Jali family.
“The death of a child in such an undignified manner is completely unacceptable, and incredibly disturbing. I would like to send my sincere condolences to the family of Viwe Jali, who passed away tragically on Tuesday. I cannot begin to know the trauma the parents are experiencing, it is truly a tragic incident and my sympathies are with them.”
However, Section27 executive director Mark Heywood held Motshekga responsible for Viwe’s death, which was similar to that of Michael Komape, 5, who also fell into a pit toilet at Mahlodumela Primary School in Polokwane four years ago.
Michael’s family are being assisted by Section27 to sue the department.
“I read her statement. I absolutely believe that she is crying crocodile tears. She knows about the repulsive and shocking state of toilets in public schools in remote areas. The problem is that she and her people know about these deadly toilets but there is no political will to fix them,” he charged.
“They continue to make excuses. It’s not a matter of lack of resources or technology. They simply do not care.
“During Michael’s case, we showed the court a model of a safe toilet that costs R5000 to make, but her department didn’t follow up. Instead, its lawyer tried to stop us from showing the court pictures of these dangerous toilets that 45000 learners in Limpopo were exposed to,” added Heywood.
He did not rule out the possibility of his organisation assisting Viwe’s family with a lawsuit. He stressed that Section27 would consider this if the family approach it first and all the facts of the case were presented to it.
Motshekga said the department had made strides in fixing properties, such as the introduction of a 12% minimum budget for each province to be dedicated to maintenance. She blamed budget cuts.
Motshekga said there were 5225 maintenance projects being carried out around the country and that the Eastern Cape had already exhausted its maintenance budget.
“The department is doing everything in its capacity to address infrastructure backlogs in a timely manner by prioritising unsafe structures and those without decent sanitation, electricity and water. The ministry holds bi-weekly meetings with implementing agents and the infrastructure team to ensure targets are prioritised,” she said.
The department on Thursday also announced the death of a Grade R pupil, 5, who was electrocuted at Hamutsha Primary School in Limpopo on Wednesday afternoon.