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Family sues over poor sanitation following son’s death

LIMPOPO – More than a hundred residents gathered outside the Polokwane High Court on Monday morning to show their support of the family of six-year-old Michael Komape who are suing the Department of Education for the poor sanitation which lead to his death in 2014.

The family representative in court, Advocate Vincent Maleka, said the family deserve special damages for all the pain they have suffered since Michael’s hideous death. On 20 January 2014 Michael Komape, who had just started school and was excited, went to use the pit toilet during break time and fell into it.

It is not known for how long he floundered in faeces and human waste, trying to grip onto something before he drowned in the filth. Michael’s absence was made known to his teacher who couldn’t find him. So the school called Michael’s mother Rosina Komape, who ran several kilometres along a dirt road to the school.

She was the one who found his body in the toilet – only his hand stretched upwards, the rest of his body submerged. It was reported that she fainted on the spot. “The family deserve special damages for all the pains they suffered. Michael’s mother, Rosina Komape was unable to go to work, due to the pains she was going through.

‘Unable to cope’

The family suffered psychologically,” said Maleka. The court heard how the family had to go through several counselling sessions as they were unable to cope without Michael and battled to accept the manner in which he had died so suddenly and were still struggling to find closure. “It is the state’s duty to protect learners at school and provide them with proper sanitation.

The school governing body was concerned about the poor conditions of the toilets at the school since 2009 but the department did nothing, despite various protest by the local residents,” said Maleka. The representative also provided a list of people who will testify during the trial. These include Michael’s parents, siblings and two of his friends who witnessed the incident when it happened in 2014 and informed the teachers.

Maleka said the Komape family were currently under the care of psychologists who were preparing them for the ordeal of testifying in court. Rosina Komape was the first witness to take the stand on day one of the trial. She told the court that Michael had been the youngest of seven children. The case continues.

An edited version of this story was published by IOL.

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