Students at the Tyelimhlophe Agricultural School in the Eastern Cape are raising the issue of overcrowding in hostels. This as a student died in a hostel fire on Friday.

Five more people, including four children from the Fadana family in Dutywa, perished when their home was gutted by fire on Saturday. The death toll of fire-related incidents in the province rose to 19 in a single month.

The students are traumatised after they watched their hostel go up in flames and tried in vain to extinguish the fire.

Learner Liyabona Makhwembe paid tribute to the deceased learner.

“I was out to get water and I realised there was smoke. I threw the cup away and we tried to get means to extinguish the fire but we couldn’t. We will miss her because she was a quiet and clever girl. We used to copy maths from her.”

Another learner Siyamkela Maphasi says that they are distraught by the incident.

“We are distraught. We are trying to get to terms with what has happened. One of the challenges in our school is overcrowding.”

The Eastern Cape government has committed to support the families. Education MEC Fundile Gade says that they have decided to suspend classes at the school.

“We have taken the decision to suspend classes based on investigations that had to be conducted and to also assist teachers and learners deal with the trauma. We have postponed the classes to the 12th (August). The hostels are not government-owned but are private. Most of our schools are day schools with no boarding facilities. Even though there are budget constraints, we are trying to intervene and look if it is a priority on the list of schools in need; but will make interventions.”

The Fadana family in Mputhi village says their lives will never be the same after losing five family members. Family member Akhona Ndinga says that they saw the flames, but it was already too late.

“I am left alone, these were all my siblings. We saw fire, but it was apparent the fire had already caused extensive damage.”

In recent weeks, house fires have killed 12 people in Mthatha, Mbizana and Willowvale.