Activist groups demand investigation into principal who made pupil look for phone in pit toilet

Equal Education and the Equal Education Law Centre have called for a thorough investigation into principal Lubeko Mgandela, who is accused of instructing a pupil to get his phone from a pit latrine Image: Ziyanda Zweni

Equal Education and the Equal Education Law Centre have called for a speedy investigation into the principal of Luthuthu Junior Secondary School principal, Lubeko Mgandela, who is accused of instructing an 11-year-old pupil to retrieve his cellphone from a pit latrine.

The activist groups want the Eastern Cape education department and the SA Council of Educators to investigate the incident with speed and sensitivity.

Mgandela has since been suspended and is on a criminal charge for child abuse. He’s out on R2,500 bail.

“It is deeply disturbing that a learner could be dehumanised and endangered in this way, and continuous psychosocial support must immediately be made available by the ECDOE for all the affected learners and their families,” the organisations said in a statement.

They said the incident was a horrible reminder of the deaths of Lumka Mkhethwa and Michael Komape, who died in pit latrines at their schools. “Last week, March 12, was the third anniversary of five-year-old Lumka tragically losing her life,” they said in a statement.

Lumka fell into a pit latrine at her school, Luna Primary School in Bizana, in the Eastern Cape, and drowned in 2018.

The two organisations have also demanded the basic education department urgently see to it that pit latrine toilets are eradicated across SA.

According to the statement, there are about 1,243 schools that have pit latrines as the only form of a toilet, which is contrary to the norms and standards for public schools infrastructure which bans such latrines from all schools.

They said their engagements with education departments, and their analysis of the latest provincial school infrastructure reports, show departments still struggle with the basics such as accurate and accessible data, clear and co-ordinated planning, as well as making sure that the implementing agents and contractors that build schools on behalf of the government are held accountable.

They also highlighted that the slow pace of delivery of school infrastructure has been made worse by the National Treasury making cuts to infrastructure grants.

Belinda Pheto – TimesLIVE

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