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Many Activists have hailed a South African court ruling over the case of a boy who died in a pit toilet.

The Court ordered the Department of Basic Education to pay damages to Michael Komape’s family for ’emotional shock and grief.

Five years old Michael Komape had died in 2014 after falling down a long-drop pit toilet.

Micheal Komape drowned in a pit latrine at the Mahlodumela Primary School in a rural area of Northern Limpopo province.

His death shocked South Africans

Meanwhile, Open Toilets are still common in many schools in South Africa.

However, the Supreme COURT of Appeal described the school’s toilets as being “in a horrible and disgusting condition”.

Campaigners and experts have praised the decision by South African Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) to award damages to the family of Michael. The campaigners described it as a “breakthrough case” for the country’s legal system.

The SCA on Wednesday ordered the Department of Basic Education to pay 1.4 million rand ($98,500) to the family of Michael Komape for the “emotional shock and grief” caused by his death.

A Legal scholar, Emile Zitzke described the court’s decision as a “step towards making South Africa’s law more caring and compassionate”.

Earlier, Judges in the Polokwane High Court had dismissed a damages claim brought forward by Komape’s family last year. Despite finding that the education ministry and its provincial counterpart had violated Michael’s rights.

Contrarily, the SCA’s judgement overturned a ruling earlier made by the lower court.

Section 27, a public interest law centre that represented the family, welcomed the move to reverse that decision.

Umunyana Rugege, Section27’s executive director said thus: “The judgment vindicated the rights of the family and sets an important precedent for other families,”

“The court was scathing of the state’s conduct, not only following Michael’s tragic death but also during the litigation.”

Commendably, other campaigners like Faranaaz Veriava, head of Section 27’s education rights programme, said the case had highlighted the “impact of poor sanitation on the rights to dignity, life and education”.

Meanwhile, South African Human Rights Commission, said that March this year, about 25,000 schools in South Africa’s still use pit latrines. 

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa pledged in August 2018 to get rid of such toilets entirely within two years.

But campaigners say not enough progress has been made. Ramaphosa’s promise came five months after another five-year-old pupil drowned in similar circumstances to Komape.

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