NW school SGB demands answers following death on school premises

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The School Governing Body at Moedwil Combined School near Swartruggens in North West is demanding answers following the death of the school’s kitchen manager on Friday.

Michael Mokhethi died after allegedly inhaling chemicals from a fire extinguisher that was discharged at the school dining hall. It is alleged that Mokhethi seemingly ran out of breath and collapsed after also being assaulted by one of the learners who allegedly attacked kitchen staff in the dining hall.

A fire extinguisher was allegedly discharged moments before meals were served. Staff working in the kitchen says it seems this was the beginning of a tragic ending for Mokhethi.

“They sprayed some sort of powder here and I think that’s what caused his passing as well as being pushed by that boy because he is generally asthmatic. The boy was standing over there. We had already served him but he just wasn’t moving away. Then he started swearing at us and then the fight started after that,” says one of the staff members.

“This is something that they planned to do; that when schools close, they are going to do something in the kitchen. They’ve always had problem with kitchen staff because where food is concerned, when you dish up for a child, they still want more even if they got a lot of food,” says another.

Safety has become an overwhelming concern for staff.

“We are not safe. Over and above that, there were no teachers on duty except for one. All the others who were expected to be here were not,” says one of the kitchen staff members.

“We are not safe here. We don’t have the teachers support. Teachers come when they feel like it and sometimes, they don’t come at all. These children can swear at you in reference to your private parts and the teacher just looks and says nothing,” says another.

A member of the SGB, Elsie Williams says that they are also demanding answers.

“We didn’t get a call from the schools, but instead we were informed by the children. We don’t know where the teachers were at the time, including the principal. Those are the questions that need to be answered so they can explain how they are running things here at Moedvil.”

The Department of Education says they are attending to the incident.

The Department’s spokesperson is Mphata Molokwane, “The Department of Education has sent out a senior delegation to Moedwil Combined School to further investigate the incident that occurred on Friday. As the Department of Education in the province, we condemn the manner in which learners conducted themselves which ends up putting the image of the department into disrepute. We call upon all those involved in the incident to be cooperative and let the law unfold until investigation closes. We can update the public that two learners who are in Grade 12, who are alleged to be suspects, were detained by SAPS members.”

Police in the province say two learners aged 18 and 19 were arrested and charged with common assault, while an inquest docket has been opened pending the post-mortem results of the deceased.