Boy (6) who died in pit toilet had ‘escaped death’ in taxi accident

2014-01-22 17:20

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Just over three months ago, six-year-old Michael Komape was hit by a minibus taxi but his parents’ relief after his recovery was short-lived when he died in a pit toilet at school.

Images of the young boy’s hand raised above his head with his lower body covered in dirt will forever haunt his parents, James and Rosina Komape – who fainted when she first saw the body in the pit.

“He was there in the toilet pit with his hand raised above all that grime. It looked more like he had raised his hand as he struggled and cried for help,” James Komape said.

“We were happy and excited after seeing him in his uniform and starting school after recovering from the accident. He had leg and head injuries and spent some weeks in hospital in September. He escaped death when he was hit by a minibus taxi and now he died on school grounds where we least expected him to be exposed to serious danger.”

Komape last saw Michael on Monday morning when he asked him for money before leaving for school.

He said his son was still enjoying his first days in uniform – it was his fourth school day – when he died.

Michael was a Grade R learner at Mahlodimela Primary School in Chebeng outside Polokwane, Limpopo. During break on Monday morning, he ran through the tall grass to the doorless pit toilets.

The toilets are situated at the back of the teachers’ toilets, which are also pit toilets but are cleaner and housed in proper brick structures.

A search ensued on Monday after Michael did not return to class.

Tall grass and thick shrubbery obstructed the view of the pupils’ toilets from the classrooms and offices.

It is believed Michael fell into the toilet when the seat caved in.

The pit toilets for learners at the Mahlodimela Primary School. Picture: Lebogang Makwela/City Press

When City Press visited the school today, the corrugated iron frames that had been covering the toilets had been dismantled and the pits had been covered to prevent learners from using them.

The toilet seats are made of framed iron sheets, which have been badly corroded and are very weak. It is not yet known exactly how Michael died, but his parents said he could have sunk into the pit through the weakened toilet seat.

His fellow learners were today using the four toilets that were built for exclusive use by the teachers while the children had to use the four pit toilets at the back of the schoolyard.

Limpopo education spokesman Phuti Seloba said: “There was nothing wrong with having separate toilets for teachers and learners, but toilets must be of the same standards because all these people are equal before the law.

“Our key issue now is also around security at schools. Children are normally escorted to toilets during class time but [Michael] went to the toilet during break time when they were outside playing,” Seloba said.

He said his department was not in a rush to say heads must roll.

“Lots of children have graduated from this school but never fell into those toilets. This was just an accident,” he said. “We’re now investigating if this could have been avoided and how.”

Seloba said Mahlodimela was on a list of about 1 000 schools in need of proper sanitation facilities in Limpopo. He said his department had launched a programme to eradicate pit toilets and unsafe structures in schools by the end of March or at the end of this financial year.

As an immediate intervention at Mahlodimela, Seloba said 20 mobile flushing toilets would be delivered to the school from tomorrow while construction of new toilets was expected to be completed in two to three weeks’ time.

Meanwhile, the Komape family, including Michael’s parents, who are unemployed, said they were hoping for some assistance to help them bury their son on Sunday. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

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