Headteacher charged with child abuse for dangling boy into pit toilet to find his phone


A headteacher in South Africa has been charged with child abuse after lowering an 11-year-old boy into a pit toilet to search for his mobile phone, according to local news reports.

Lubeko Mgandela, head of Luthuthu Junior Secondary School in Eastern Cape province, has also been suspended while officials investigate the incident.

There have also been calls for his educator’s licence to be withdrawn.

The incident happened early this month after Mgandela accidentally dropped his phone into a toilet at the school.

It is alleged that he then used a thick rope to secure the boy, who cannot be identified, and lowered him into the pit to search for the phone with his hands.

The boy was unable to find the phone and when he was pulled back he was covered in faeces.

Fellow pupils made so much fun of him that he has not returned to school, according to his family.

He was apparently paid 50 rand (£2.40) for his efforts even though the head had promised him 200 rand (£9.60) if he found the phone.

The boy’s grandmother told the South African news outlet GroundUp that she is happy the matter is being investigated.

“It has been hard for my grandchild to go to school because he has been laughed at by other pupils,” she said.

The incident highlighted the South African government’s failure to eradicate pit toilets, most of which are in poor rural areas.

At least two students have fallen into school latrines and drowned, one in 2014 and another in 2018.

President Cyril Ramaphosa was so appalled by the deaths and the substandard toilet facilities in many of South Africa’s schools that he vowed all would have proper toilets within two years.

But more than 3,800 schools across the country still use pit toilets, according to official figures.