In light of increasing number of learners dying due to consumption of untested and poisonous foods, the DA in Gauteng has called for the provincial Department of Education to vet and regulate vendors who sell food to learners across Gauteng schools.
Early this month, five children in Soweto and the West Rand, including a 4-year-old, died after allegedly eating food said to have been bought from local spaza shops.
This past week, similar incidents were reported in Tshwane as well as in the Free State.
On Friday, the Gauteng Education Department confirmed that another learner had died after allegedly consuming food bought from a street vendor.
The department said the learner was from a school in Tshepisong, south of Johannesburg, where six others have been admitted to the hospital.
This comes as 22 other learners were rushed to a local clinic in Soshanguve earlier on Friday after falling ill from consuming snacks bought from an informal trader.
In September, more than 90 learners from Pulamadibogo Primary School in Soshanguve, Tshwane, were rushed to local medical facilities after experiencing nausea, stomach cramps, and some vomiting from allegedly eating space cookies.
The DA has called for the department to act swiftly in addressing this scourge, with DA’s shadow MEC of education, Sergio Dos Santos, saying this is a matter of urgency.
“The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng reiterates its call for the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) to urgently vet and regulate vendors selling inside and outside the school premises across the province to ensure the safety of learners,” Dos Santos said.
He said the party is concerned following the most recent incident on the West Rand.
“In a recent incident, learners fell ill after buying Simba chips outside the Reimolotswe Primary School in Winterveldt and at Tlotlo Mpho Primary School in GwaRankuwa. Learners were rushed to hospital after eating snacks bought from a vendor outside the school.
“The learners were rushed to a nearby clinic for medical attention. These incidents of children getting sick after consuming food bought from vendors operating outside the school are prevalent,“ he said.
Do Santos says the department must introduce proper system to ensure food safety at schools across the province.
“It is high time that GDE establishes a proper system in place to vet anyone who sells food outside and on the school premises. Gauteng schools lack a functional vetting process for vendors to ensure that learners are sold safe, hygienic, and healthy food,” he said.
The department’s spokesperson, Steve Mabona, said it was saddened by the death of yet another learner due to food poisoning.
“It’s really worrying to see so many of these cases, and unfortunate incidents where children pass away... We continue to urge SGBs, parents and communities at large to be always vigilant towards the food and snacks sold in and around schools. Where it is suspected that the food or snack is expired, such information should be reported to the local health or police authorities for necessary action,“ he said.