Department fails to pay damages

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Durban - All that Simphiwe Shange wants is to get back into school, but his dream is being thwarted by the KwaZulu-Natal Education Department which has failed to pay him R3.9 million in damages.

Shange was awarded the damages after Durban High Court Judge Dhaya Pillay found that he had been partially blinded by a deputy principal while he was disciplining another pupil with a belt.

Seven months ago the judge ordered the department to pay the damages claim plus the costs of the civil trial.

Shange, 26, who dropped out of school because of his injury, was a Grade 9 pupil at Gcwalulwazi High School in Eshowe 10 years ago when he was hit in the right eye by Moses Biyela.

As a result, Shange’s right eye has a detached retina and his vision is limited to seeing hand movements.

Shange sued the KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC as he said the injury had impeded his schooling and his ability to follow his dream of becoming a photographer.

The department denied that the incident had occurred.

In her judgment, Judge Pillay said teachers should realise that corporal punishment was illegal and had a devastating, dignity-denying, life-changing impact on pupils and the fiscus.

Shange, who is now based in Cape Town, said he had been accepted at Abbotts College in the Western Cape to do his Grade 10 but could not enrol.

“Going back to school is something I have been looking forward to for years, as I know the value of a good education. The award meant that I could afford to attend a school that would cater for my needs. But I do not have the funds to pay for school fees and cannot start in January 2014.

“This means another year of my life will be wasted.”

Shange added that he was frustrated by the department’s failure to pay as it had placed his family in a desperate situation and they had had to borrow money from relatives and friends. “Had the MEC for Education paid the amount due to me, I would be able to care for myself, my daughter and my mum.

“We are currently using money we have borrowed from friends and family and do not know how much longer they will be able to support us.”

Shange’s attorney, Elana Hannington, said a warrant of execution had been obtained to attach the department’s goods, but it was difficult to act on it because of the large sum of money involved and they could not attach items which could affect service delivery.

Education Department spok esman Muzi Mahlambi said the matter was being handled by the department's legal unit and declined to comment further.

The Mercury

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