Masakhaneni High School’s Mxolisi Mzulwini was among a group of pupils from the KwaMakhutha school attending a boot camp intended to bring them up to speed for their matric exams.
The pupils missed out on classes after two colleagues were stabbed and killed in a dispute over a cellphone in August. The school was closed for a further two weeks after 17 of its teachers were axed for allegedly selling drugs to pupils and sleeping with them. Their dismissal sparked a protest that resulted in 32 schools in the area being shut down.
The boot camp was then arranged at Adams College to help pupils catch up on their lessons.
A staff member, who asked not to be named because they were not authorised to speak to the media, said the camp was held from September 26 to October 6, during which time the pupils stayed at the college.
On Monday, pupils started to complain about the food. They became extremely sick. “Some of the children were defecating blood,” the staff member said.
Some pupils started to leave the camp as their health deteriorated.
“When they came to the camp, they were bussed in. But when they left, there was no such help and those who were sick had to find their own way home.”
The source added that Mzulwini, who was extremely sick, had to walk more than 4km home. “He was so sick he had to stop numerous times on the way home to rest.”
Mzulwini’s cousin, who would not be named, said his relative arrived home at about 6.30am on Wednesday.
“He was taken to a local clinic and they gave him tablets and did a sputum test to check for tuberculosis. He was told to come back on Monday,” he said.
Mzulwini went home and was resting when he was discovered dead. There were signs that he had been bleeding from his nose and had vomited blood.
A parent said some of the ill children had not wanted to leave the camp as they had been desperate to study.
“I had to force my daughter to leave as she wanted to carry on studying even though she was sick. The children there were really desperate to study,” she said.
Mzulwini’s grandfather, Phikinkani Mzulwini, said the family was devastated by his death as they had expected him to finish matric this year.
He said Mzulwini’s mother, Fakazile, was “heavily traumatised and there is not much we can do besides console her”.
“She used to be a caregiver. After she lost her job she focused on taking care of her children and she had high hopes for him.”
Teachers from the school had come to their home to express their condolences and described him as a quiet person who was deeply respectful of the people around him. Phikinkani said the family planned to have the funeral on Saturday.
The Education Department had not commented on the incident by the time of publication.