28 March 2018
Equal Education has called for Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and Eastern Cape Education MEC Mandla Makupula to be fired after five-year-old Lumka Mkhethwa died in a school pit latrine.
Lumka drowned at her school in Bizana in the Eastern Cape on 12 March, four years after another five-year-old, Michael Komape, died in a dilapidated pit latrine at his school in Chebeng Village, Limpopo.
Lumka’s body lay in the latrine overnight while members of the community searched for her. She was only discovered the next day.
“If South Africans are to believe in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s new dawn then government must adhere to the school infrastructure law, and the deadlines that it stipulates,” said EE general secretary Tshepo Motsepe in a statement on Tuesday.
He said it was outrageous that in 2018 there was still a need to audit the status of sanitation at schools.
“Since 29 November 2013, Minister Motshekga has been bound by a law, which she adopted, which details the infrastructure standards for each school. The law says that by 29 November 2016, schools must have been provided with access to water, electricity and decent sanitation. The law explicitly says that plain pit latrines are not allowed at schools.”
Motsepe added that Michael’s tragic death had not been enough to spur Motshekga and the MECs into action.
He accused Motshekga and the Limpopo Education Department of using taxpayers’ money to drag the Komape family through a long legal battle, and offering them a “disgracefully small” settlement.
“Had the law that Minister Motshekga adopted, or the death of Michael Komape, compelled the government into action, Lumka Mketwa would not have had access to a plain pit latrine at her school.”
Motsepe said Motshekga had continued to live up to the name the organisation had given her, Minister of Broken Promises.
“Children have died at school, and we as a nation are expected to accept the explanations from those who are responsible for the deaths of Lumka, Michael, and the other learners who have not made headlines.”
He called on politicians not to make excuses, but to improve the lives of young people for whom education is a liberating tool. “If you cannot,” he said, “step aside!”
Equal Education has accused the national and Eastern Cape provincial education departments of getting Lumka’s name wrong. On 16 March, the organisation wrote that the departments had incorrectly identified Lumka as Viwe Jali. “We are horrified by this error. We reiterate that we are angered at the continued, crass disregard for the interests of learners, particularly those that are poor and black. That the two departments incorrectly identified the little girl, who died as a consequence of their failures, beggars belief,” wrote Equal Education.
Motshekga had not responded to requests for comment by Wednesday afternoon.