Michael Komape (5) drowns in a pit toilet at school – the brutal realities of poverty.

Michael in hospital months before his tragic death.

Michael was 5 years old when he fell in a pit toilet and suffocated in human faeces. He died – at school.

His short life was cut short and his rights were violated. His dignity was violated as he drowned in human waste. Lack of sanitation affects other rights such as the right to an adequate standard of living, right to health and the right to water.

His school failed him. The Limpopo Department of Education (South Africa) failed him. They have a duty to protect school children on school premises. They have a duty to provide adequate services and facilities for school children – that includes sanitation services. Sanitation is more than just a physical toilet or latrine. It includes the entire system for the collection, transport, treatment, and disposal or reuse of human excreta and associated hygiene.

Corruption is bleeding the country dry. According to Minister of Economic Development Ebrahim Patel R 27 billion is lost yearly to corruption. Sadly corruption hits the vulnerable, women and children, the hardest. 30.4-million of South Africa’s 55-million citizens live in poverty (StatsSA 2017). In terms of the poverty share, five out of ten poor South Africans were women (52.7%), while 66.8% of children below the ages of 17 were living in poverty.

We cannot forget Michael Komape. His life cut brutally short while attempting to receive education. We cannot forget other children who are in similar circumstances. We all have a right to a toilet – it is a human right.

NGO Section 27 is assisting to Michael’s parents to hold the government liable for the death of their son in the ongoing case Komape v Minister of Education & others.

Rest in Peace Michael Komape 3 October 2008 – 20 January 2014.


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  1. This is so sad and makes me soooooooo angry. What a terrible and traumatic way to die 😭 uuuuuugh. If it’s not this it’s lack of textbooks Limpopo Dept of Education needs to do better

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