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Michael Komape’s family needs psychological help to deal with his death, court hears

By: Chester Makana from Inside Education 

At least eight additional psychological sessions are needed to help Michael Komape’s family cope and find closure to their son’s death, the Limpopo High Court heard on Friday.

A clinical psychologist Stephen Molepo came into conclusion after he conducted eight sessions with members of Komape’s family, after evaluating each individual’s progress.

Michael died almost three years ago after he fell into a dilapidated pit toilet at Mahlodumela Primary School in Chebeng village near Polokwane, Limpopo.

Molepo was presenting his report during the civil litigation brought to court by Section27 on behalf of struggling Komape’s family.

The family is demanding loss of income and damage from Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga, saying the department failed to ensure that aging toilet were maintained or adequate facilities were placed for use.

Michael had just joined the school when he met his untimely death.

On January 20, 2014 he had gone to the toilet and fell into the pit toilet. He was later found with his hand calling for help while his lifeless body remained drowned in the pool of faeces.

Since then the family has been struggling to come to terms with the horrific death and required more psychological intervention.

Testifying on Friday, Molepo told court that while senior family members, including Michael father, James, and mother Rosina have since responded well to psychological intervention.

According to psychological evaluation, the Komape family was on the verge of drifting apart as a result of his traumatic death.

Komape said he discovered that the family thought talking about Michael’s death will be opening wounds against each other.

“Most family members prefers not to talk or express their emotions about Michael’s death, it was not because they did not want to talk about the death, afraid of hurting one another, the less they talk about it the better. They keep it to themselves.” said James Komape

“They feel the less they talk about it, it will subside,” said Molepo

But according to psychological report, their silence did not help instead it drove the impoverished family as they continue to focus on Michael death.

According to the report, Rosina blames herself for taking Michael to the school, and the scene of his brother’s death repeatedly visits her as she seeks isolation from the community.

Molepo further told court that Rosina, and her husband are coming to terms with the loss of their son, and post traumatic disorder are vanishing.

Molepo said the terrible scene remain in James mind and he struggle to erase it.

“He has a visual imagination of his son in the toilet.”

Like his wife Molepo said he has responded quickly to psychological intervention as compared to other members of the family.

Michael Komape’s siblings

According to Molepo, Lucas and Lydia, Michael’s elder brother and sister were also traumatised to a point that they wonder in the dead of the night as to why their younger brother died that way.

But after attending therapy they recovered, but the legal battle in court triggered a reminder and they are praying that it can end soonest.

However, three of Michael siblings still need additional intervention as the signs of trauma are still lingering.

Molepo said if the lingering signs are not addressed they could resurface later when they grow up.

The three were teenagers when Michael died.

The hearing has been postponed until Monday.

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