Johannesburg 16 March 2018
#Justice4Michael Exhibition Statement
Four years ago, Michael Komape fell into a pit toilet and died. His name has become synonymous with the struggle for children around the country for sanitation and safe schools. The #Justice4Michael Exhibition which will be housed at Constitution Hill at the Old Fort from 23 – 25 March is based on the Michael Komape case and will track the family’s journey from 5 year old Michael’s tragic death, through to their almost 4 year-long trial process.
The exhibition is aimed at sensitising and showing the public what this extraordinary family has had to endure in their pursuit of #Justice4Michael as well as highlight the sanitation plight of schools in Limpopo that to this day still have dilapidated toilets and some no toilets at all.
On 20 January 2014, during break time, Grade R learner Michael Komape went to use the pit toilet at Mahlodumela Primary School in Chebeng Village, near Polokwane. The toilet was dilapidated and Michael fell into the pit below. He drowned in other people’s waste with all his dignity stripped. Michael was only five years old. It was his third day at school.
SECTION27 started working in the Limpopo province on ensuring students got textbooks in 2012 and this is how we came about the tragedy of the Komapes. It was when the family were appealing for assistance from the public with regards to the burial of their son that we knew we had to intervene.
On 13 November 2017 the family finally started their journey towards healing and closure as the trial began, running for 3 weeks in the Polokwane High Court before concluding on the 2 February 2018. The family now awaits judgement from Judge Muller so that they can finally gain closure for the case.
It is tragically ironic that as the family await this seminal judgement it is reported that an almost identical incident happened in the Eastern Cape this week. This week too was when SECTION27 representing Basic Education For All was intervening as an amicus in the Norms and Standards for public schools case lead by Equal Education at the Bhisho high court when news of 5 year old Lumka Mketwa broke.
We were hoping that the Komape case would serve as an indication and cautionary tale of the depths to which we should never find ourselves sinking. Sadly the department of Education has shown that it has in fact not learnt this lesson or drawn a line beyond which they are not willing to go. It is for this reason that our efforts towards #Justice4Michael and all learners are so critical.
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