The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC or Commission) is appalled at the death of 5 year old Viwe Jali, who died earlier this week after falling into a pit latrine at Luna Primary school in Bizana, in the Eastern Cape. Only 3 years after the tragic and preventable death of 5 year old Michael Komape, the failure of the State to prevent a reoccurrence and to eradicate the prevalence of pit latrines in schools is unacceptable.
The Commission has immediately initiated a Provincial-wide investigation into this incident, as well as the continuing appalling state of many schools in the Eastern Cape. The fact that the education sector still reflects the stark disparities of historic deprivation, with thousands of schools lacking the most basic infrastructure necessary to ensure the safety and dignity of learners is shocking and cannot be tolerated. The Provincial Department will be called to publicly account for state of infrastructure in schools across the Province.
If we are going to achieve the vision promised by the Constitution – a society premised on equality and dignity – and where we purport to protect the most vulnerable, we need to carefully scrutinise the adequacy of measures taken to realise fundamental rights. The Commission also notes with concern the fact that, despite an almost full expenditure of budget for school infrastructure, the Department of Basic Education has vastly underachieved on targets set for the construction and maintenance of infrastructure norms and standards.
The Commission expresses its deepest condolences to the family, and strongly urges the Department to take immediate steps to address the continued undignified state of many schools across South Africa. In addition to the Provincial-wide inquiry to be launched, the Commission has requested an urgent meeting with the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, to discuss the state of school infrastructure.