‘Unbelievable indeed’. Weekly death toll in Gauteng schools rises to five
The Gauteng education department says it has experienced one of its worst weeks in years, with five learners dying, among several other challenges.
Gauteng MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark
In a statement on Friday, Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said he was saddened to inform the public about the deaths of learners and various disturbing incidents in different schools that had been reported during the first week of February.
He admitted that this had been one of the worst weeks he could remember in his time in charge, and he felt under siege.
He called on South Africans to pray for the education system so that it and his department could receive much-needed “divine intervention”, as “we have no option”.
The department released an update on Saturday morning that brought the number of learners killed to five.
On Saturday, the department said “while we were consolidating the disturbing incidents we already shared with the public yesterday, we are informed that a Grade 12 girl learner from Fochville Secondary stabbed a Grade 8 boy learner from Thutokitso Secondary to death”
“This incident occurred in the township Kokosi not far from both schools. Sadly, this brings us to the fifth death in a week. Unbelievable indeed.”
On Friday, education department spokesperson for Gauteng Steve Mabona revealed that a nine-year-old Grade 3 learner at Radineo Primary School in Mabopane vomited in the classroom on the Tuesday and was subsequently rushed to a local clinic. Unfortunately, the learner was certified dead on arrival. Police were investigating.
A Grade 8 boy learner from Bophelong Secondary also died on Tuesday.
“Circumstances surrounding the death of the said learner are being investigated,” said Mabona.
“We also received a report that on Tuesday, 04 February 2020, a year 1 learner at Belvedere Special School passed away. It is alleged that the said learner drank poison. Subsequently on arrival at home from school, he died at approximately 16:00.”
Doctors suspected organophosphate poisoning, but the circumstances were being investigated.
The fourth death occurred when a Grade 1 learner at TN Kudube Primary in Hammanskraal died. Allegedly, the learner was playing on Wednesday while awaiting for scholar transport.
Mabona said: “Miraculously, a goal post collapsed on the learner who then struggled to breathe. He was rushed to Jubilee Hospital, and later died. Our psychosocial team continues to conduct counselling at the schools and families.”
The week from hell was not yet done, either, with the department listing further “unfortunate incidents” in different schools since the start of the school year.
“We were informed that, on 16 January, a gate fell on learners, which resulted in three injured at Rivoningo Primary School in Soshanguve. All learners were rushed to a local hospital and discharged after receiving necessary medical attention.”
Mabona admitted it was unfortunate that this was not reported on time, “which is regrettable”.
On Tuesday, a learner from Tshepisong Primary School was raped after school while waiting for transport. The circumstances surrounding the case were being investigated and the “necessary support” was being provided to the learner.
“Another bullying incident at Nirvana School in Lenasia was brought to our attention on Tuesday.” Video footage of the incident was shared with the department, and was still being investigated.
“Two boy learners were seen fighting on Tuesday at Lantern School after school. Fortunately, both boys were not severely injured. The said learners were subjected to disciplinary processes accordingly.”
The department then said that on Tuesday a teacher was allegedly assaulted with sjamboks in full view of learners by two parents at Mayibuye Primary.
“Regrettably, a 57 year-old female educator has not been able to report for duty since Wednesday due to trauma.”
She was receiving the necessary support from the Employee Wellness Programme and the police were investigating the circumstances surrounding “this sad and unfortunate case”.
On Wednesday another incident was reported concerning four learners from the Roodepark High School fighting at about 12:50. “All were issued with letters to appear before the DC process on 06 February 2020.”
Furthermore, on the same Wednesday, a report was filed that a car knocked down a wall at Lamontagne Primary School and two grade R learners were injured. They were rushed to the local hospital and later discharged. The necessary support was provided to the school and family.
“Another sad report was received that a 12-year-old learner from Umzamo Primary school was raped by an unknown man on her way back home, after our scholar transport bus broke down, which led to learners walking back home.
“We have launched an investigation on why learners were allowed to walk home. Decisive action will be taken accordingly.”
Mabona also revealed that a girl learner from Leeuwport Primary School ran away from home on Thursday after losing her house key.
“Allegedly she was afraid of her mother. The parents only opened a case with the police today.”
Finally concluding his round-up of the schooling week from hell, Mabona said that on Wednesday, about 12 learners from Noordwyk High School were involved in a motor vehicle accident. They were rushed to local hospitals and discharged after receiving medical attention.
“It is alleged that a scholar transport taxi was driving on the wrong side of 3rd Road and drove through the steel gates of a complex in Halfway House, Midrand, and into the wall of a house.
“The driver was arrested and charged at Midrand Police Station for reckless and negligent driving.”
“It is disappointing that we have been disrupted in many schools, with some of these disruptions led by SGBs and parents. We wish to appeal to members of communities not to disrupt schooling but to resort to available channels to resolve challenges.
MEC Lesufi said: “We wish to convey our sincere condolences to all bereaved families during this time of grief.
“Indeed we started academic year 2020 on a bad note. We have been experiencing different deaths and unfortunate incidents in our school environment. It must be said that for many years we have never gone through such an experience. Indeed we are under siege, and lost for words.
“This time around, we have no option but to call upon all spiritual denominations to come together and lead us in prayer. Indeed we plead for divine intervention.”
(Edited by Charles Cilliers)