Mpumalanga learners die from food poisoning

Tumelo waga Dibakwane

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Mpumalanga will  lay criminal charges against the Mpumalanga Education Department, including Education MEC, Bonakele Majuba, following the deaths of three learners from Nelson Ngobeni Primary School in eMalahleni who died in hospital on Monday after being served food through the school nutrition programme. They have also called for an  emergency external audit of the food supplied through the feeding scheme to ensure that it is safe and that this tragedy does not occur again.

According to reports learners started vomiting and complaining of stomach pains after eating the food provided through the scheme. They were taken to eMalahleni Hospital for observation where three of the learners died. Ten are still monitored in hospital.

The DA sent their deepest condolences to the families of the deceased learners and wishes the ten learners who are still in hospital a speedy recovery. The Party, in a statement, said that it is concerned that this incident may urge parents to take their children out of the school feeding scheme,and this could directly affect nearly 1 million poor learners.

They have also called on the provincial provincial government to provide psychological and trauma counseling to the families, learners and teachers of Nelson Ngobeni Primary School.

This is the second case of food poisoning to be reported in a Mpumalanga school within the last four months and this is very concerning. In May this year, 26 learners from Ndimande Primary School in Bushbuckridge had to be hospitalised after eating food from the school. They also suffered diarrhea and vomiting. This prompted some parents to consider withdrawing their children from the school feeding scheme.

Currently, nearly 1 million learners, specifically 910 978 from quintile-1 schools across the province, depend on the school nutrition programme. It would be a disaster if parents take their children out of the programme because of fear of poisoning.

The aim of the schools feeding scheme is to fight widespread poverty and improve children’s school attendance, but the party stressed that the safety of learners must come first.