The case against the school principal of an Eastern Cape school who coerced an 11-year-old pupil to retrieve a cell phone from a pit latrine toilet full of human excrement was postponed on Wednesday.
Lubeko Lennox Mgandela (49) appeared briefly at the Tsolo Magistrates’ Court on charges of child abuse. He was initially charged with attempted murder on his arrest on Tuesday.
National Prosecuting Authority regional spokesperson Luxolo Tyali said Mgandela was granted R2 500 bail.
“His bail conditions included that he does not interfere with witnesses and investigations, and not set his foot at Luthuthu Junior Secondary School, where the offence was allegedly committed, until the case has been finalised.
“It is alleged that the principal made an 11-year-old child undress and enter into a toilet that was full of human faeces. The child was allegedly tied with a rope on the upper body and lowered in the pit latrine toilet by other learners in an effort to retrieve the principal’s cell phone that fell into the toilet,” said Tyali.
The case was postponed to May 27 for further investigations.
Yusuf Cassim, DA spokesperson on education in the Eastern Cape, said the provincial department of education was constantly lowering its standards while the dignity of learners was overlooked.
“As the department drags its heels, more and more learners are being placed at risk, just like the 11-year-old learner whose life and dignity was worth less to his principal than a cell phone; just like five-year-old Lumka Mkhethwa who lost her life in a pit latrine,” he said.
Cassim said the incident put the spotlight on the inadequate infrastructure at Eastern Cape schools, where many are still using pit latrines.
“The disturbing revelation of a principal lowering an 11-year-old learner into a pit latrine to retrieve his cell phone has once again cast the spotlight on the dire lack of proper sanitation facilities in the Eastern Cape.
“The DA is calling for the Eastern Cape department of education to explain the delays in the eradication of pit latrines and provide a comprehensive plan to address this once and for all.
“Despite several cases in recent years, including an incident where a child tragically lost her life, the department has done nothing to prioritise the eradication of pit latrines,” Cassim said.
Eastern Cape Education MEC Fundile Gade has promised to visit the school on Thursday to apologise.
“As the sector, we learnt with shame the ill-treatment of one of our learners by the principal of Luthuthu, wherein the learner was allegedly made to draw a fallen cellular phone from human waste in a school toilet.”
“I will be visiting the school and the family this Thursday to apologise for this terrible and untoward behaviour displayed by the principal. As the department, we believe that such behaviour shows a lack of respect for our children..,” said Gade.