Ex-Affies pupil loses claim against school
A former Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool, Pretoria, pupil who lost an eye because of an injury received during a ball game he was playing with friends in the hostel grounds, has lost his damages claim against the school and its governing body.
Jan Linze Veenstra blamed the accident on the negligence of the school, saying it allowed children to play on their own and misbehave.
But Acting Judge Jan Hiemstra said he was impressed by the structure of authority at the school and the rules that had been developed over a long time to enable the school to honour its responsibilities towards the pupils.
The judge said what happened to Veenstra had been a freak accident and the school was not to blame.
Veenstra claimed R838 375 in damages from the school after the injury to his eye on June 4, 2007.
At the time he was in Grade 10 and a boarder at the school. The injury eventually cost him his eye.
Veenstra testified that he and his friends were playing with a ball in the hostel courtyard after school. The ball landed on the roof of a shed. He climbed on to the roof to retrieve it. He threw the ball down, but someone threw it up to him.
He then threw down a stick he had found on the roof. A boarder who was not part of the game picked up the stick and threw it back onto the roof. At this point Veenstra was climbing down, saw the stick and ducked. The stick hit him in the eye.
The rest of the evidence presented by both sides related to the responsibility of school authorities to ensure that children were not injured while at school.
This was in the light of Veenstra’s argument that the school had been negligent because of “insufficient discipline and rules, which resulted in the children doing what they wanted”.
Judge Hiemstra said it could not be doubted that the school exercised stringent discipline, especially when it came to its hostels.
The rules included that no boarder was allowed at the hostel between 2.30pm and 4pm as the pupils had to participate in extra-mural activities, and no ball games were allowed on the hostel property. This was apparently to prevent damage such as broken windows.
Judge Hiemstra said a ball game was not a dangerous activity, but climbing on to roofs and throwing objects around was.
The judge asked Veenstra why he had thrown the stick down from the roof in the first place, but the youngster said he had no idea why.
Judge Hiemstra said the only question was whether the school authorities could have foreseen that one boarder would throw a stick at another under the circumstances.
The accident would not have occurred if Veenstra had not thrown the stick down. “This incident must have occurred in the blink of an eye. I cannot see how the school authorities should have anticipated this.”
The judge said he could not think of any precaution the school could have taken to prevent this accident. - Pretoria News