Family of poisoned girls home schooled
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Pretoria - Millions of children across the country are going back to school today for the last term of the academic year, but two children in Winterveld, north of Pretoria, will not join their classmates.
Instead, they will be home-schooled as their family fears they might be poisoned if they go back to Ema Primary School.
Cousins Precious Msiza and Mbali Mahlangu died after an alleged poisoning at Ema Primary School. The girls and their friend Sibongile Mahleya were buried on the last day of school a week ago. The trio started vomiting after lunch. The Education Department and police are investigating the source of the poison.
The department has since withdrawn the feeding scheme operating at the school and replaced it with a new one, pending investigations. On the day the three died, they had consumed samp and soup from the feeding scheme and cake and juice Sibongile had brought from home.
Their uncle, Klaas Mahlangu, said the family had decided to withdraw two of their surviving children from the school and home-school them. Mahlangu will be in charge of educating his son Ntando, who is in Grade 1, and his nephew Vusimusi, who is in Grade R. He said the children would repeat the grades at another school next year.
When he announced he would not be taking the children back to Ema Primary School this term, Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said the department would give the family the support they needed.
On Friday, Mahlangu said he was still awaiting the girls’ post-mortem results and the outcome of the department’s investigation. “School is supposed to be a safe place. Especially because we haven’t received a word on the investigation, there is no way our children can go back to that school,” Mahlangu said.
But in his quest to keep the children safe, Mahlangu might be breaking the law. Education is compulsory for all up to the age of 15 or until they reach Grade 9.
The department does not allow parents to remove children from mainstream schools into home-schooling in the middle of the year.
Before home-schooling a child, parents have to apply to the Gauteng Education’s head of department for permission. Parents must submit medical reports from an education psychologist and a doctor as supporting documents. Their application can take up to 30 days to be completed and parents have to apply before August 31 of the year before starting home-schooling.
Gauteng Education spokesman Phumla Sekhonyane said they had not received an application for the children to be home-schooled. “We will be monitoring if these learners come back when the schools reopen and will engage the parents.”