On the 20 January 2014, Michael Komape stepped out of his Grade 1 classroom to use the outside pit toilet at Mahlodumela Primary School, near Polokwane, Limpopo. His body was later found in the pit after he fell into the dilapidated, collapsed school toilet. He suffocated and drowned in other humans’ waste with all his dignity stripped. Michael was only five-years-old.

Three years later, on 13 November, the Rosina Komape & Others vs The Minister of Basic Education, the Limpopo Department of Education & Others will start in the Limpopo High Court in Polokwane. This case is set down for three weeks and SECTION27 is acting as the family’s legal representative with Vincent Maleka from Thulamela Chambers as the Senior Counsel.

Since the tragic death of Michael, SECTION27 has been working closely with the Komape family in their quest for justice. Long before the tragedy SECTION27 had also been working with community organisation Basic Education for All to draw attention to the disgusting and dangerous state of school sanitation in Limpopo. As we write this letter, thousands of Limpopo learners run the daily risk of meeting the same fate as Michael, forced to learn in dilapidated, filthy classrooms, with empty stomachs (as school feeding schemes collapse) and many without all their textbooks. This is shameful.

Michael’s death was caused by the bad conditions at his school and particularly its toilets. The school violated Michael’s rights to dignity, life and safety and security of person. When parents send their children to school each day we have a right to expect that the school will protect our children and always act in their best interests. We intend to argue that the rights of Michael’s parents were therefore also violated through the school and government’s failure to prevent Michael’s death.

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