SA headteacher ‘made pupil dig in poo for lost phone’

A South African headmaster has been suspended over accusations he forced an 11-year-old boy to dig for a missing phone in a faeces-filled pit latrine.

He is alleged to have lowered the child by a rope into the hole used for a toilet, promising him 200 rand ($14; £10).

The boy’s grandmother says he now fears going to school as other pupils mocked him afterwards.

The local education body told TimesLive it learned of the matter with “shame”.

Pit latrines are common in South Africa, where it was estimated last year that a sixth of all schools still use them, despite their dangers.

A top education official for the Eastern Cape, Fundile Gade, told reporters the incident was “beyond disgrace” and he would be visiting the pupil’s home to apologise himself.

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The headteacher in question at Luthuthu Junior Secondary School is now being investigated by the Eastern Cape department pending further action.

It is alleged he also encouraged other children to help retrieve the phone, which is understood to have been accidentally dropped into the staff pit toilet at the beginning of March.

Local media say the alleged incident came to light when a local NGO that works to promote school attendance heard about the incident.

Petros Majola, from Khula Community Development Project, posted a video that has gone viral, describing the incident in Xhosa, saying the hunt for the phone went on for an hour.

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After students had used buckets to remove some of the waste, Mr Majola is quoted as saying that boy was then lowered in until he was “knee-deep in the faeces”.

“He used his own hands to search for the phone, with faeces going even above his hands and to his elbow.”

According to News24, when the phone was not found, the headmaster gave the child 50 rand for his efforts.

The boy’s grandmother, who has not been named, told local media that her grandson felt ashamed after his ordeal.

In 2018, the government pledged to get rid of all pit latrines in state schools within two years after a five-year-old pupil drowned in one.

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