DA to launch court action to force basic education dept to eradicate 'deadly' pit toilets in SA

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Langalam Viki,3, died on 6 March after falling into a pit toilet at school.
Langalam Viki,3, died on 6 March after falling into a pit toilet at school.
  • Three-year-old Langalam Viki, who died after she fell into a pit toilet at Glen Grey Primary School, was laid to rest at the weekend. 
  • The DA announced plans to launch court action to force the government to eradicate pit toilets. 
  • The party spent Human Rights Day comforting the little girl's family. 

The Democratic Alliance will launch a court action to force the Department of Basic Education to eradicate pit toilets at schools across the country. 

This follows the death of three-year-old Langalam Viki, who drowned in a pit toilet at Glen Grey Primary School in Esiqithini village earlier this month.

The little girl's mother raised the alarm when she failed to return home from school.

It was Langalam's 10-year-old brother who arrived at home alone after school with the bad news that his sister had gone missing on school grounds.

She was buried on Saturday with the assistance of the Eastern Cape education department.

READ Ex-principal struck from teaching register for forcing boy to search for phone in pit toilet

On Human Rights Day, DA leader John Steenhuisen visited the family at Esiqithini Village in Vaalbank, outside Komani.

Addressing mourners and well-wishers at the Viki homestead, he said: "In consultation with our lawyers, the DA will be starting litigation proceedings to find the quickest and most effective means to instruct governments across the country to erect proper sanitation facilities for all school children as a fundamental human right."

Steenhuisen added that the party would engage with civil society organisations, public advocacy groups, and non-governmental organisations working in the education space to put together a strong case.  

DA education spokesperson Baxolile Nodada said the tragic death could have been avoided if Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga had not wasted time in eradicating all pit toilets from schools.

pit toilets
Langalam Viki

The 2021 National Education Infrastructure Management System (NEIMS) report revealed that a total of 5 167 schools (21.1%) were still forced to use pit toilets, while 5 836 (25%) did not have a reliable water supply. 

Motshekga recently told Parliament that only 3 898 schools were initially identified and that work had proceeded at only 2 786 of those. 

READ Three stoned to death after body of girl, 8, found inside pit toilet in Mpumalanga

Of these 2 786 schools, only 2 359 had been partially completed.

In 2021/22, an additional 622 schools with pit toilets were identified, said Nodada. 

Steenhuisen informed the Viki family that he had told his party that he did not want to celebrate Human Rights Day at some stadium, but wanted to spend the day with them.

He dismissed views that he had visited the family on Human Rights Day to score political points. 

"Well, you have got to use these days to promote and advance action. There is no use in sitting back and celebrating past victories when we have tragedies like this. I don’t think this is politicking. We are committing to eradicating these deadly pit toilets from schools."

Steenhuisen added that no child should have to meet this fate in South Africa, almost 30 years since the dawn of our democracy.

The DA leader was flanked by provincial party leader Andrew Whitfield, Nodada, Eastern Cape education spokesperson Edmund van Vuuren,  MPL Sanele Magaqa, and MP Marina van Zyl. 

READ The toilets have nothing to do with the dead 4-year-old found in one, education department insists

Basic education department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said police were still investigating the circumstances around Langalam's death.

"The school where Langalam attended received new toilets in 2018. We have conveyed our condolences to the family and supported them and we will continue to do until the truth is uncovered," he said.

Asked why the toilets did not flush, despite being an adequate firebrick structure, provincial education department spokesperson Vuyiseka Mboxela said it was due to lack of a sewage system in the village where the school is situated.

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