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Pretoria - The Mpumalanga MEC for education, in her official capacity, has to pay R218 764 in damages to a teenager who received multiple injuries when a device one of his classmates had brought to school exploded.
The injured teen’s mother, Onica Skosana, had claimed R450 000 in damages from the education authorities in the Pretoria High Court.
The court found the education authorities were responsible for Solomon Skosana’s injuries as the blast occurred while he was at school. At the time, he was a Grade 5 pupil at Tjdelani Primary School in Mpumalanga.
The blast occurred on August 15, 2007 and Solomon received internal injuries as well as lacerations to his forearms, legs and abdomen. He had to be admitted to hospital.
His mother blamed the school and said the teachers should have kept a watchful eye on the children to ensure their safety. They also had to ensure that pupils did not have dangerous objects in their possession while at school.
The mother said the school phoned her that afternoon and told her that her son had been injured in an explosion.
A technology teacher had given the class an assignment to build a toy boat. She told them to bring materials, which included string, boxes and wood, but Solomon’s mother said he was told to bring a battery.
Another teacher said she saw the children building their boats. This teacher confiscated a hammer, a pair of pliers and spinning tops from the children.
The children then told the teacher that another child had wires, with copper protruding from them. She confiscated these and turned out the child’s pockets. More wires were found. A third teacher testified that as she was leaving the school premises, she heard an explosion and saw Solomon covered in blood.
Solomon said a friend had a device and wires with her and was playing with them. They were confiscated, but the child apparently had more of these items. She told Solomon to take the battery he had with him and to connect the two wires to the device she had given him. He did not know what the device was, so he connected it.
The next moment there was an explosion, he said.
The court found that a reasonable teacher would have carried out a more thorough search for devices and dangerous objects.
A doctor testified the lacerations had healed, but Solomon was left with permanent scars that had widened and were extremely painful. The court was also told that Solomon was now suffering from anxiety and avoiding the place where the blast occurred.
He also had nightmares from time to time and flashbacks about the explosion and was depressed, mainly because his fellow pupils made fun of his scars.
Judge Tati Makgoka said the other children sometimes referred to Solomon as “bomb boy” and he found this embarrassing. While he was a member of his school choir, he could not take part in physical activities because of constant pain. The judge said was clear from medical reports that Solomon experienced considerable pain and suffering. The incident left him with permanent, unsightly scars. He had become the subject of ridicule, taunts and teasing by his peers.
Judge Makgoka ordered that R218 764 be paid in damages, including medical expenses. A trustee has to be appointed to manage the money on the teenager’s behalf.