Appeals for toilet upgrades were 'ignored', says ex-principal of Michael Komape's school

Polokwane – The former principal of Mahlodumela Primary School told the Limpopo High Court on Monday that her appeals for toilet upgrades were ignored by the provincial education department.

The State had called Maphalane Malothane to testify as a witness in the civil case brought by the family of 5-year-old Michael Komape, who fell into a pit toilet at the school in January 2014 and died.

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Michael had only been at the school as a Grade R pupil for a week.

Malothane, who also identified herself as a Grade R teacher, said she realised that the boy was not in the classroom during a head count.

"I am the one who discovered that Michael was not in the class. After each and every break, I mark the register because some children had the tendency of leaving the school after break," said Malothane.

She phoned his mother who rushed to the school after it became clear that Michael's whereabouts were unknown.

The two searched but could not find him until they went to the creche section where Michael's friend told them the boy had fallen in the toilet.

Department 'irresponsible'

The Komape family previously testified that the school never bothered to visit or offer them help after Michael's death.

They have accused the department and its officials of being irresponsible.

Malothane detailed how emergency rescue personnel removed the toilet structure and seat to get to the boy.

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She said the school and department had visited the family in the company of Phuti Seloba, who was basic education department spokesperson at the time.

"We wanted to know how we can help," she said.

The hearing continues on Tuesday.