Safety at NW special schools a concern

Pretoria – A Portfolio Committee at the North West Provincial Legislature has expressed concern about the lack of a security plan at special schools in the province.

Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Education and Sports Development, Arts, Culture and Traditional Affairs, Boitumelo Moiloa, said the Committee will meet the Education Department to check whether there are disaster, security and contingency plans in all the schools in the province including special and mega-farm schools.

This as three girls died on Monday when they were trapped in a room after a fire ripped through the girls’ hostel at the North West Secondary School for the deaf in Leeudoringstad, near Wolmaranstad.

Fifty-four others were admitted to hospital for smoke inhalation and injuries they sustained when they jumped from the first floor to the ground floor to escape the fire.

The Committee held a meeting on Tuesday so as to get the facts as to what happened at the school.

The Committee also met with parents of the deceased learners to send messages of condolences.

The Head of Department at the school, Caroline Mothibedi, said the school management was informed by the volunteering guard that the fire started in the early hours of Monday in the girls’ hostel but the cause is unknown.

“With the help of the fire department, the learners and teachers who were sleeping in the hostels were evacuated.

“The Department of Health is continuously providing counselling to parents, learners and teachers. Learners were also moved to other schools in Wolmaranstad,” said Mothibedi.

She said the school does not have caretakers and security personnel.

Moiloa said the incident at Christiana School for the Blind that happened in 2013 should have been a wake-up call for the department but nothing has been done to secure special schools.

“The incident at Christiana should have highlighted the challenges in special schools. It is very unfortunate that the department continues to fail in providing these special schools with necessary security personnel and care-givers and resources where some of these incidents can be avoided. It is unacceptable for parents to send their children to these schools when they are not conducive and safe for learning,” said Moiloa.

The Department of Education’s Security Manager in the District, Itumeleng Mokae, admitted to the Committee that the department is still in the process of deploying security in all special schools around the province.

The Committee is due to call the department to a meeting to account on the incident later this week.