More than 300 kids and their professors use three restrooms at a high school in a remote area of northern South Africa, but that appallingly imbalanced number isn’t the greatest issue.

Students wait up to use the three pit latrines, which are essentially 10-foot-deep holes on the earth, around lunchtime.

At Seipone Secondary School in Ga-Mashashane, the pit toilets are covered with white toilet seats and surrounded by stone walls. Some of the more than 3,300 schools in less affluent, mostly rural parts of South Africa that still have pit toilets in operation don’t.

Human rights organizations are urging the South African government to permanently eliminate the subpar amenities in schools because it is a disgraceful scenario for a nation that is considered to be the most developed in Africa and an indication of its severe issues with poverty and inequality.

The latrines are not only unhygienic, but they also pose a significantly greater risk.

James Komape was met with an appalling sight one day in January 2014 in the adjacent Chebeng hamlet.

He had gotten a call requesting that he head straight to the pre-school of his five-year-old kid. Michael, the little youngster, was discovered drowned at the bottom of a pit toilet. When Michael’s father arrived at the scene, his corpse was still submerged in the pool of excrement and urine mixed with water at the bottom of the hole he had fallen into.

James Komape stated, “What really hurt me about Michael’s incident was that the people there saw that he had fallen in the toilet, but they did not remove him.” “They claimed to be awaiting the arrival of the appropriate officials to take him away. I informed them that maybe he would have lived if they had evacuated him more promptly.

It was Michael Komape’s first week at a new school, and many South Africans were outraged by his horrific demise. His family successfully sued the education division of the province of Limpopo for damages. The South African government was later pushed by court rulings to take immediate action to address the problem of pit toilets in schools.

However, Michael Komape’s tragedy is not unprecedented. In the almost ten years that have passed, more young children have also perished in pit latrines, including a girl only last month and a boy in March. There are no accurate statistics available to indicate how many kids have perished in pit latrines.

Because the latrines don’t need a continual supply of running water, they are more affordable and useful for impoverished schools. They feature an exit that is used to empty them regularly.

Children as young as 3 are still using pit toilets at the Jupiter Pre-School and Creche in the same Limpopo province where Michael died. These toilets lack a suitable seat and instead feature a hole dug out of a concrete slab that leads to the pit below.

Florina Ledwaba, the school’s manager, stated, “These are not good because of potential accidents of children falling in the toilet.” “We have to always follow them (the kids). What if they leave without your knowledge? They are in no way secure.

Pit restrooms at South African schools have been inspected by the Equal Education human rights organization. The protection of students at their schools should be a primary concern for the government, says group leader Tiny Lebelo, who is frustrated that it hasn’t been addressed.

By March 31 of this year, the South African government vowed to replace every pit toilet in every school. It didn’t take place. Pit latrines are still being used in 3,398 schools, according to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, and the target date for getting rid of them has been moved to 2025.

According to Lebelo, “it speaks about how we perceive people in rural areas.”

“We’re not going to give you a basic toilet because we’re saying that they don’t deserve dignity,” the person said. Because you’ve already been using it (pit toilets), we’re not going to offer it to you, she stated. So what are a year, two years, ten years, or decades worth? We are telling them that they are not deserving of dignity.

Another human rights organization, Section27, is fighting for the elimination of pit toilets in favor of “safe and decent sanitation facilities.” In their legal battle with the local and federal education departments, Section27 aided Michael Komape’s family. As a result of their support, they were able to win a court order requiring the government to update information on pit toilets used in schools in the Limpopo province and replacement plans every six months.

The mechanism used by Section27 to monitor government activities is termed The data may be used by the Michael Komape Sanitation Progress Monitor to hold the education department responsible.

By lowering the number of schools in Limpopo using pit toilets from 363 in 2021 to 210 presently, the department has made some progress. But James Komape said that since the government had promised to do rid of pit toilets, “many children are still in real danger.”

The pit toilets at Seipone Secondary School are officially referred to as ventilation enhanced toilets and are also known as “VIP toilets.” They are not at all. Students are increasingly pushing back in addition to being angry.

Tebogo Makgoka, a 17-year-old student representative, said: “Our health also matters; (we) cannot use toilets like these.”